What is Elder Abuse?

The Illinois Elder Abuse and Neglect Act directs the Illinois Department on Aging to provide services to people over the age of 60 who may be victims of abuse.  The Center for Disease Control and Prevention recently published a report indicating a dramatic increase in reports of elder abuse. From 2002-2016 the assault rates against men were up 60% and a 35% increase for women.  Both sexes often experience violence inflicted by a relative or acquaintance often a caregiver.   According to Illinois’ Adult Protective Services agency there were 13, 536 reports of abuse against seniors in 2017 (Keeshan & Sarkauskas, 2019, “Stark facts about elder abuse”, Daily Herald Aug.30, 2019).  Victims usually experience more than one type of abuse; financial exploitation made up the most cases.  Abuses can encompass many forms, however the more common abuses perpetrated on the elder are:

  • Financial exploitation means the misuse or withholding of an older adult’s resources by another, to the disadvantage of the elderly person, or the profit or advantage of someone else.
  • Emotional abuse means verbal assaults, threats of abuse, harassment or intimidation.
  • Physical abuse means inflicting physical pain or injury upon an older adult.
  • Passive neglect means the caregiver’s failure to provide an older adult with life’s necessities, including, but not limited to, food, clothing, shelter or medical care.
  •  Willful deprivation means willfully denying an older adult medication, medical care, shelter, food, a therapeutic device or other physical assistance, and thereby exposing that person to the risk of physical, mental or emotional harm.
  • “Self-neglect” means a condition that is the result of an eligible adult’s inability, due to physical or mental impairments, or both, or a diminished capacity, to perform essential self-care tasks that substantially threaten his or her own health, including: providing essential food, clothing, shelter, and health care; and obtaining goods and services necessary to maintain physical health, mental health, emotional well-being, and general safety.

What Can you Do?

The Elder Abuse and Neglect Act provides that a person — who in good faith reports suspected abuse or cooperates with an investigation — shall be immune from criminal or civil liability or professional disciplinary action. It further provides that the identity of the reporter shall not be disclosed except with the written permission of the reporter or by order of a court. Anonymous reports are also accepted.  If you suspect elder abuse please contact the Elder abuse hotline: toll-free 1-866-800-1409, 1-888-206-1327 (TTY).

About Dr. Lynn Atkinson Tovar

Dr. Lynn Atkinson Tovar is a professor of Justice, Law and Public Safety Studies at Lewis University in Illinois. The former commander has done research on teen relationships and technology as well as abusive relationships. Her book "Smart Teen, Safe Teen: Respecting Relationships in Your Social Digital Life " is available at https://amzn.to/2HJsuNE

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