CHICAGO – Governor Rod R. Blagojevich and the Illinois Department on Aging (IDOA) today launched the 3rd annual statewide “Break the Silence” campaign and proclaimed July Elder Abuse Awareness Month in Illinois. The Governor and the Department are encouraging those who are victims or suspect abuse to call the state’s 24-hour Elder Abuse Hotline at (866) 800-1409, where trained professionals are prepared to take reports of elder abuse and forward them promptly to local service agencies or law enforcement.
“Our seniors deserve to be treated with dignity, respect, and to feel safe and secure. Abuse and neglect are unacceptable, and the sooner we know about a case of abuse, the sooner we can put a stop to it,” said Gov. Blagojevich. “But in order to keep up the fight against abuse and neglect, we need to make sure we have the means and resources to do it. That’s why I’m once again calling on lawmakers to work together on a balanced budget that provides adequate funding for programs like Elder Abuse prevention that helps keep thousands of seniors safe every year.”
It is estimated that more than 76,000 seniors in Illinois are elder abuse victims. In Illinois, elder abuse is defined as neglect, physical, mental or sexual injury or financial exploitation to an adult 60 years of age or older. If you suspect that someone is being abused, the following are a few indicators that may point to a problem:
• 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.
“Elder abuse happens everyday and in most cases, goes unreported,” said IDoA Director Charles D. Johnson. “We hope the ‘Break the Silence’ campaign will help increase awareness in the state. I want to encourage those who are victims or suspect abuse to call our 24-hour Elder Abuse Hotline so that we can stop abuse before it’s too late.”
The “Break the Silence” campaign includes outreach efforts such as billboards and mass-transit advertisements, public service announcements and senior community fairs to increase awareness and visibility of this important issue. In addition, the Department on Aging is hosting the 21st Annual Elder Rights Conference July 17-19 in Lincolnshire to educate professionals on topics including elder abuse prevention.
Since the start of the “Break the Silence” campaign, the number of reports of elder abuse has increased by 1,300. In the year prior to the campaign, 8,584 reports of elder abuse were submitted. In the campaign’s first year, the number of reports increased to 9,305. During the second year of the campaign, nearly 9,800 reports of elder abuse were made.
If you are a victim of elder abuse or suspect an elder is being abused, call the Illinois Department on Aging’s 24-hour Elder Abuse Hotline at (866) 800-1409 or TTY at (888) 206-1327. Trained professionals are prepared to take reports of elder abuse and forward them promptly to local senior protective service agencies or law enforcement. All calls and information related to elder abuse are strictly confidential.
While senior protective services agencies investigate cases of abuse for elders that live in the community, the Long Term Ombudsman investigates allegations of abuse or neglect in nursing homes. For more information on how to detect and prevent elder abuse, please visit www.state.il.us/aging.
The full text of the Governor’s proclamation follows:
WHEREAS, according to the Illinois Department on Aging, between four and five percent of persons in the United States, aged sixty and older are subject to some form of mistreatment or abuse, including physical, emotional, and sexual abuse, as well as financial exploitation and neglect of basic care needs; and
WHEREAS, Illinois has approximately two million citizens over the age of sixty, meaning that as many as 90,000 Illinois seniors could currently be suffering from some form of abuse; and
WHEREAS, it is the mission of the Illinois Department on Aging and its network of service providers to increase public awareness of this plight against our most vulnerable elderly; and to promote increased reporting of elder abuse; and
WHEREAS, it is essential that the citizens of Illinois recognize the signs of abuse, neglect and exploitation and report suspicions of abuse; and
WHEREAS, it is imperative that each community in Illinois refuses to tolerate this offense against our older citizens by creating greater awareness of the prevalence and severity of elder abuse in hopes of eradicating it from society:
THEREFORE, I, Rod R. Blagojevich, Governor of the State of Illinois, do hereby proclaim July 2007 as ELDER ABSUE AWARENESS MONTH in Illinois, and encourage all citizens to recognize this crisis and join in working toward its prevention.