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Home > Publications > Quill > Winner: Wisconsin State Journal


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Wednesday, July 9, 2008
Winner: Wisconsin State Journal

“Elder Abuse: A Silent Shame”

Jim Poyser

An elderly recluse starves to death.

A con man bleeds nearly $250,000 from two women in their 90s.

A nursing home aide sexually assaults a 73-year-old Alzheimer’s patient.

An eccentric 88-year-old woman with $50,000 in her handbag is shot to death and left in a farm field.

The stories, all from Wisconsin, outrage us and capture our attention — for a while. But thousands of senior citizens here, and millions nationally, are suffering at the hands of family, caregivers and even themselves.

For reporter Dean Mosiman, the turning point was hearing a story about an elderly woman whose family was neglecting her and exploiting her finances.

“I did a preliminary interview with some local elder abuse investigators and found troubling stories and issues that deserved further reporting,” Mosiman said. “I felt a human desire to help and proposed an in-depth project.”

Mosiman, in his eight-month investigation, conducted more than 150 interviews and examined reams of documents and databases. Editor Ellen Foley said Mosiman “took time to build trust with elderly victims and their families, spending countless hours in living rooms as they opened their lives and shared their suffering. Going behind those closed doors in communities all over our region, Mosiman discovered heartbreaking accounts of elders who had been beaten, neglected, starved and robbed. The common thread: In most cases, no action was taken to stop the mistreatment.”

Judges cited the thoroughness and completeness of the series, “from the statement of the problem to discussion of the problem to possible solutions of the problem.”

Mosiman said he hoped “the series helped silent victims. I also hope it’s had an impact on intra-family relationships by raising awareness and educating on the signs of abuse. I have been told that the series has saved some county and state programs from budget cuts or elimination.”

He added that the “Madison Police are doing first-ever trainings on elder abuse. … We expect a bill in the Legislature on durable powers of attorney for finances. … I believe the series offers a foundation for anyone in our state working for change.”

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