The number of older adults, who are making the decision to stay in their own homes, rather than moving to senior living facilities or in with their children, is increasing. While this allows them autonomy, it also places them at risk for abuse or neglect by caretakers or even family members’ care takers. The State of Illinois estimates that more than 75,000 people over the age of 60 are abused while only 10,000 victims are reported annually.
Elder abuse can range from physical abuse to passive neglect and even denying an older adult medication or necessities as well as financial exploitation. Elderly victims of abuse may be too afraid to report abuse; often the only person they may have contact with outside of their abuser is a health care provider.
Health care providers are mandated to report any signs of abuse but the recent expansion the Elder Abuse Records (HB 5266/PA 97‐864) law now includes police, fire departments and other first responders. The Act expands the people and agencies that can access records or reports of elder abuse and neglect. This access will allow increased protection for elderly citizens, allowing them to live safely and securely knowing that local law enforcement agencies are aware of possible past abuse and are better able to protect these senior citizens.
In addition, HB 5653/PA 97-865 was also enacted to protect both elderly and disabled Illinois residents. The new law makes it easier to prosecute cases involving financial exploitation of an elderly person, or a person with a disability. The law allows prosecutors to freeze the assets of a defendant, which then can be used to provide restitution to the victim.