Elder abuse is a serious problem that affects millions of individuals across the United States each year, including many in Illinois. In hopes of raising awareness and keeping the problem from getting worse, Gov. Pat Quinn has declared that July is now Elder Abuse Awareness and Prevention Month across the state.
Caregivers and other family members that are known by the victim can be guilty of abusing their elderly charges. When these individuals cause harm or the potential for serious harm to their elderly patients or family members through their negligent acts, whether they be emotional, physical, sexual or financial, they have committed the crime of elder abuse. When it occurs in an institutional setting, it is usually known as nursing home neglect.
The Illinois Department on Aging estimates that of the two million adults over the age of 60 who reside within the state, over 100,000 are victimized in one form or another every year. The problem is not isolated to Illinois. Authorities believe that only 1 out of 5 instances of abuse are reported nationally, so they really do not have a clear knowledge of just how extensive the issue is. Reports from nursing homes and other care facilities alone indicate that there is a severe problem. One study done by the National Center of Elder Abuse discovered that 44 percent of care facility residents had been abused and 95 percent indicated that they had been neglected or witnessed another resident being neglected.
Keeping loved ones safe
Those who believe their elderly loved ones may be the victims of elder abuse can look for certain signs that indicate that there may be a problem. If an elderly loved one shows signs of untreated injuries, scratches, cuts, bruises or burns, it should be investigated immediately. Other potential signs include sudden behavioral changes, such as unexplained depression or withdrawal, and a constantly tense, argumentative relationship with their caregiver. Dehydration, poor hygiene and unsafe living conditions also point to a problem. Financial abuse of an elder may be apparent if there is a sudden financial change in banking practices and legal documents, such as a will or directive. In each case, loved ones should always report potential abuse to the proper authorities.
According to the NCEA, 90 percent of abusers are family members. Adult children, spouses and other family members who use drugs or abuse alcohol, who feel pressured and burdened by their responsibility to care for their elderly family member, and those with a mental or emotional illness are the most likely to commit the crime.
Those who have been the victim of elder abuse in Chicago can find relief with the help of an elder abuse attorney. Victims and their families can stop the abuse and receive the compensation they need in order to rebuild their lives and move on from the ordeal.