SPRINGFIELDStepping up efforts to fight elder abuse, Illinois Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich announced a new hotline where seniors and their loved ones can report elder abuse or exploitation and quickly get help.
The new Elder Abuse Hotline, (866) 800-1409, will be staffed around the clock by trained state caseworkers who will be prepared to take reports of elder abuse, and forward them promptly to local service agencies or law enforcement.
Seniors who are victims of elder abuse, or anyone who suspects an elder is being abused, should call the Illinois Department on Agings 24-hour Elder Abuse Hotline at (866) 800-1409 or TTY at (800) 544-5304. All calls and information related to elder abuse are strictly confidential. For more information about how to detect and prevent elder abuse, visit www.state.il.us/aging.
A trained elder abuse caseworker will respond within a specified time period depending on the severity of the case: within 24 hours for the most dangerous situations, within 72 hours for less serious ones and up to seven days for all others. When actual cases of abuse are found, provider agencies that work with the state will forward the reports on to local police.
The caseworker will contact the victim and help determine what services are most appropriate to stop the abuse. Those services may include in-home or other health care; homemaker services; nutrition services; adult day services; respite care for the caregiver; housing assistance; financial or legal assistance and protections, such as representative payee, direct deposit, trusts, order of protection, civil suit or criminal charges; counseling referral for the victim and the abuser; when needed, guardianship proceedings or nursing home placement; and emergency responses for housing, food, physical and mental health services.
Previously, elder abuse complaints were taken by the Illinois Department on Agings (IDoA) Senior HelpLine, which is staffed eight-and-a-half hours a day, five days a week. After-hours, complaints were taken by an automated voicemail system. Under the governors direction, IDoA representatives will staff the new Elder Abuse Hotline 24 hours a day, seven days per week.
IDoAs Elder Abuse and Neglect Program, which was established in 1988, responds to reports of alleged abuse, neglect or financial exploitation of people 60 years of age and older. The program provides investigation, intervention and follow-up services to victims.
Legal assistance is also available to seniors involved in court cases involving elder abuse and neglect, financial exploitation, consumer fraud, landlord-tenant relationships, nursing home residents rights and conflicts over benefit programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and pensions.
Under Illinois law, elder abuse is defined as neglect; physical, mental or sexual injury; or financial exploitation to an adult 60 years of age or older.
When an elder cannot report for himself or herself, certain professionals, including police officers, medical personnel and social workers, are mandated to report the abuse.
State law also protects residents of long-term care facilities from abuse and criminal neglect by the owner or an employee of the facility. The Long Term Care Ombudsman Program is responsible for investigating allegations of abuse or neglect in nursing homes.
If you suspect someone is being abused, following are a few indicators that may point to elder abuse:
Untreated injuries, sprains or dislocations, scratches and cuts;
Sudden change in behavior and/or withdrawal in social settings;
A caregivers refusal to allow visitors;
Dehydration, malnutrition, poor personal hygiene, untreated health problems, hazardous or unsafe living conditions; and
Sudden changes in bank account or banking practices, the inclusion of additional names on an elders bank signature card, unauthorized withdrawal of the elders funds using the elders ATM or credit card and abrupt changes in a will or other financial documents.
From the June 28-July 4, 2006, issue