Although accurate figures relating to elder abuse and neglect in the United States are difficult to ascertain, experts tell us that abuse and neglect of the elderly has reached near epidemic proportions. With the number of older Americans expected to continue to grow at historic rates over the next several decades, the elder abuse problem cannot be ignored. If you have an elderly loved one, experts from the Illinois Center for Prevention of Abuse warn that recognizing the signs of elder abuse is critical.
How Big Is the Problem?
In the State of Illinois, elder abuse investigators with the Center for Prevention of Abuse initiated 830 cases last year in the six-county region that includes Peoria County. That figure is most likely a tenth or fewer of the actual cases of abuse, neglect or financial exploitation of seniors and disabled adults that occurred in the region, according to the center’s Director of Adult Protective Services, Joyce DeRenzy. One of the many things that makes elder abuse so tragic is that the vast majority of the time the perpetrator of the abuse is a family member. “Eighty percent of the time, what we’re seeing is a family member being victimized by someone they know, love and trust,” DeRenzy said in a recent news article. “The most vulnerable people are the ones who rely on someone else for care.” The fact that so many victims of elder abuse are dependent on someone else is also one of the primary reasons why compiling accurate statistics on the extent of the problem is so difficult. The victims frequently fear reprisals from the abusers, making them reluctant to report the abuse. Most reports of elder abuse are the result of a professional who is under a legal mandate to report suspected abuse or a concerned friend, neighbor, or family member.
Investigators make every effort to determine is a senior is, indeed, the victim of abuse or neglect; however, simply gaining access to the alleged victim is often problematic if the caregiver objects. Sometimes investigators must resort to the courts to obtain the right to meet with a suspected victim, a tactic which can work but is not practical to use in every case. In extreme cases, the center can petition a court for guardianship of an abused senior and remove them from dangerous living conditions if necessary to protect a victim.
What Are the Warning Signs of Elder Abuse?
According to the article, the biggest risk factor for seniors is isolation and loneliness. Other common warnings signs include:
Injury that has not been cared for properly or is incompatible with medical history.
- Dehydration, malnourishment or weight loss without illness-related cause.
- Evidence of inadequate care, such as bedsores not properly treated.
- Soiled clothing or bed linens, poor or improper hygiene.
- An adult’s money is used for personal expenses by a caregiver or family member.
- An adult does not have adequate food, medicine or personal care items when there should be enough money to provide for them.
- An adult loans large sums of money without arrangements for repayment.
- An adult suddenly changes will or other financial documents.
- An adult exhibits signs of fear, withdrawal, depression, helplessness, hesitation to talk openly or tells implausible stories.
- A caregiver does not allow the adult to speak for himself or herself and does not allow interaction with others without the caregiver present.
- A family member or caregiver blames the adult for uncontrollable issues such as incontinence.
- Caregivers, family members, supporters and an adult victim give conflicting accounts of suspicious incidents.
- Caregiver or family member exhibits aggressive behavior toward the adult, either through threats, insults or rough physical handling.
If you suspect that an elderly loved one is the victim of abuse or neglect, contact an experienced Illinois elder law attorney right away to discuss your legal options.
If you have questions or concerns regarding elder and neglect, or you believe your loved one is the victim of abuse and/or neglect, contact the experienced Illinois elder law attorneys at Nash Bean Ford & Brown, LLP by calling 309-944-2188 to schedule your appointment today.