Elder abuse is of growing concerns to seniors and their families across the country. As more awareness is brought to the issue of abuse and exploitation of elderly family members, lawmakers, lawyers, and law enforcement agencies are looking for ways to put an end to this growing problem. A recent conference in southern Illinois brought together stakeholders to share ideas and educate the public about elder abuse.
Senior Services Plus is a nonprofit, senior advocacy group in Alton that aims to help older adults seek out programs and services that encourage independent living. They recently hosted an Elder Abuse Prevention Conference, to educate senior citizens and their families on the issues of elder abuse, to recognize when abuse may be taking place, and how to act to prevent exploitation and abuse.
The conference included judges, police officers, and representatives from the Illinois Attorney General's office. Speakers brought up the concerning issues of physical, sexual, and emotional abuse of seniors. In addition, representatives from a legal aid foundation and the AG's office also talked to seniors about the less well-known problem of financial exploitation of seniors.
Clarissa Gaff, with the Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance Foundation, talked about a case where a doctor noticed the health of an elderly patient was in decline. When the group looked into the situation, a nephew and friend had moved into the woman's house, and were involved in drugs. The elderly woman was not getting enough to eat, which resulted in her declining health. They had to get a court order to get the nephew and friend out of the house.
The conference also brought up the issue of domestic violence. While most people don't think of domestic abuse occurring in senior-aged households, domestic physical, emotional, and sexual abuse can occur in any age group. Often times, financial exploitation and physical or emotional abuse go hand in hand when individuals are taking advantage of seniors. In many cases, family relatives are to blame for exploiting their elderly relative's financial situation.
Madison County Associate Judge Sarah Smith cautioned others to look for signs of exploitation between the elderly individual and a family member. “You can be their advocate if you don't think they'll do it themselves,” Smith said. “Many people come to us in tears and reluctant, because their abuser is a loved one.”
Recently, Governor Rauner signed a new bill into law that extends the statute of limitations for bringing charges against individuals accused of financially exploiting seniors or those with disabilities. The new law would extend the time period from three years to seven years.
“Unfortunately, the financial abuse of seniors and the disabled is on the rise,” said Senator Gary Forby, one of the sponsors of the bill. “It's important that we continue to make necessary changes to our current safeguards to help prevent this type of abuse from occurring.”
If you suspect a loved one is the victim of nursing home negligence or elder abuse, you should speak with an experienced attorney who understands Illinois senior rights laws. No one deserves to be abused or harassed, especially not our senior parents or relatives. At Benassi & Benassi, we are committed to getting our clients and their families the justice they deserve.