SPRINGFIELD – Stepping up efforts to fight elder abuse, Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today announced a new hotline where seniors and their loved ones can report elder abuse or exploitation and quickly get help. Beginning today, the new Elder Abuse Hotline, (866) 800-1409, will be staffed around the clock by trained state caseworkers who will be prepared 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 Aging’s 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 on how to detect and prevent elder abuse, please visit www.state.il.us/aging
“After a lifetime of working hard and raising a family, our senior citizens deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. Unfortunately, there are people out there who exploit and even abuse senior citizens,” said Gov. Blagojevich. “That’s unacceptable, and the sooner we know about a case of abuse, the sooner we can put a stop to it. That’s why we created this 24-hour hotline.”
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 Aging’s (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 Governor’s direction, IDoA representatives will staff the new Elder Abuse Hotline 24-hours a day, seven days per week.
“The fact that the hotline is staffed by a real person 24/7 will allow people to report abuse at any time of the day, whenever they feel most comfortable and safe,” said IDoA Director Charles D. Johnson. “We know that most cases of abuse aren’t reported – only about one in ten cases. We hope the convenience of this hotline will compel more people to come forward and make those reports.”
IDoA’s Elder Abuse and Neglect Program, which was established in 1988, responds to reports of alleged abuse, neglect or financial exploitation of persons 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 caregiver’s 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 elder's bank signature card, unauthorized withdrawal of the elder's funds using the elder's ATM or credit card and abrupt changes in a will or other financial documents.
Since the beginning of his administration, Gov. Blagojevich has signed several pieces of legislation to help protect seniors from elder abuse and increase public awareness. Through legislative action, the Governor has:
· Created the Missing & Endangered Senior Alert System
· Trained volunteers to assist the state in its efforts to increase awareness of elder abuse and available programs and services provided by the state for victims.
· Encouraged banking institutions to help in the state’s campaign to prevent financial exploitation.
· Prohibited a person who has been convicted of financial exploitation, abuse or neglect from receiving any inheritance from the senior he/she abused.
· Increased criminal charges and penalties for battering a person age 60 or better.
· Lifted rules that prohibited banking institutions from providing information to certain entities if there is suspicion that a customer is or may become the victim of financial exploitation.