Illinois residents received some much needed help in the fight against elder abuse recently with the passage of a law that extends the current statute of limitations applicable to financial exploitation of seniors. House Bill 5805 was signed into law by Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner. The bill extends the current three-year statute of limitations to seven years for crimes involving the financial exploitation of older adults or those with disabilities. “Unfortunately, the financial abuse of seniors and the disabled is on the rise,” said one of the bill’s sponsors, Sen, Gary Forby, D-Benton. “It can force these vulnerable populations into dire financial situations, robbing them of their savings, their financial security and even their homes. The extension of time to pursue financial exploitation charges will be an asset to law enforcement and a benefit to the elderly and their loved ones in the fight to end elder abuse.
Elder Abuse and Neglect in the United States
Sadly, abuse and neglect of the elderly is not something new in the United States; however, it is a problem that is growing rapidly, in part because the older population is also increasing at a higher rate than ever before in the U.S. In the year 2000, older individuals (age 65 and older) represented 12.4 percent of the population in the U.S. By the year 2030, the older population is expected to represent 20 percent of the American population, resulting in something that has never happened before – older Americans will outnumber their younger (age 21 and younger) counterparts.
The number of elder Americans who are abused and/or neglected each year is difficult to ascertain for certain for several reasons. First, reporting requirements differ significantly across the U.S., making it hard to compile data relating to elder crimes. More importantly, elderly victims don’t report the crimes. Some of them fail to report being victimized because they are ashamed or embarrassed while other fail to say anything because they remain dependent on the perpetrator of the abuse. As a result, the following are thought to be very conservative figures relating to elder abuse in the U.S.:
- 1 in 9 elderly individuals admits to having been the victim of abuse or neglect within the last year
- 1 to 2 million elderly individuals are abused or neglected each year
- Less than 1 in 15 instances of elder abuse or neglect are reported
- 4 out of 10 seniors admit to being financially exploited
- 5 million elderly individuals are the victims of financial abuse each year
According to an article in the Southern Illinoisan, rates of elder abuse in Southern Illinois are higher than state and national averages. David Mitchell, the adult protective services unit director at Shawnee Alliance, a nonprofit that serves area seniors, says that the abuse rate within the Alliance’s catchment area is about 15 per 1,000 people. The statewide and nationwide rate, however, is about 3.5 per 1,000 people. The significantly higher rates are hopefully based, at least in part, on efforts to raise awareness of the need to report abuse in the area.
Financial Exploitation of Seniors
Abuse of the elderly can take many forms, including financial exploitation. Statistically, financial abuse is, by far, the most common form of elder abuse. Seniors tend to make easy targets for unscrupulous scammers and those who prey on the vulnerable among us. While the elderly are often victimized by professional scam artists, the vast majority of financial exploitation of seniors occurs at the hands of family members. In fact, 90 percent of elderly financial abuse is perpetrated by a family member with two-thirds of the perpetrators being an adult child or spouse of an adult child. The new law will certainly help authorities prosecute those who victimize the elderly; however, we must all do our part to help as well. If you have an elderly family member, loved one, or even neighbor who you believe could be in danger of victimization, take the time to talk to them about the issue of elder abuse. If you are convinced that someone has been abused or is at serious risk for abuse, contact the authorities and/or consult with your Illinois elder law attorney about your legal options.
If you have questions or concerns regarding financial exploitation of the elderly, or about elder law in general, contact the experienced Illinois elder law attorneys at Nash Bean Ford & Brown, LLP by calling 309-944-2188 to schedule your appointment today.