SPRINGFIELD – Continuing the state’s effort to increase awareness and visibility of elder abuse during Elder Abuse Awareness Month, the Illinois Department on Aging (IDoA) hosted the 21st Annual Elder Rights Conference in Lincolnshire this week. The conference, entitled “Elder Rights... Family Matters,” educated providers and professionals on an array of topics including how to work towards elder abuse prevention. At the conference today, individuals from around the state were recognized and honored by IDoA for their continued dedication and passion for elder rights.
“The older population battles abuse, mental health and security issues, on a daily basis. We must continue to fight for their rights, especially for those who cannot fight for themselves. Our seniors deserve to be treated with respect and conferences like this one are a great first step towards reaching our goal in making sure elders are being protected against abuse,” IDoA Director Charles D. Johnson said.
This year’s Elder Rights Conference, held July 17 - 19 at the Lincolnshire Marriott, brought together leaders from a variety of disciplines to share their experience with professionals in service to senior citizens. A number of topics were discussed at the conference: service integration and adequate reimbursement; service to underserved immigrant and minority populations; etiological factors and psychosocial influences; IDoA’s Community Care Program; assistive technology; intervention and prevention of elder abuse and self-neglect; nursing home problems; updated elder law issues; health disparities; key elements of quality Alzheimer’s special care units; ombudsman program activities in nursing facility transitions; and how to help seniors care for a child with mental illness.
Today at the conference, IDoA hosted the 2007 Elder Abuse and Ombudsman Awards Luncheon, recognizing workers and volunteers from around the state for their undivided commitment and compassion for the elder community.
“I am pleased to recognize some of the state’s exceptional public servants who have put a great deal of time and effort into helping our greatest generation live their lives to the fullest,” added Director Johnson.
The 2007 Outstanding Long Term Care Ombudsman Award was presented to the following:
• Kate Donovan (Rockford) – Serving as Catholic Charities’ Volunteer Coordinator for past 6 years, Kate has worked effectively managing the team of volunteers and coordinated cases and facility visit with the paid ombudsmen. She works to recruit, train, mentor and support volunteers, and works tirelessly on behalf of individual residents, providing support and needed information to them and their family members to resolve issues.
• Judy Ellet (Carterville) – Working at Shawnee Alliance for Seniors for four years, Judy is a great advocate for seniors. She serves on statewide workgroups and the Long Term Care Advisory Board, initiated the petition drive to increase the Personal Needs Allowance for nursing home residents, and has been integral in building support to advocate for more money in the statewide ombudsman program.
• Stefanie Heissinger (Springfield) – Determined to change the system for the betterment of the resident and focused in the daily fight for change, Stefanie is dedicated to job as Program Manager for I CARE, every day. She is knows to be a brilliant researcher and rule and regulation expert, and consistently works hard as part of the ombudsmen team. Stefanie has served as a role model for all advocates as an outstanding Ombudsman.
• Stasia Miller (Peoria) – At Senior Services, the Center for Prevention of Abuse, Stasia has excelled in her position as Ombudsman. Stasia is caring and considerate not only of the residents, but also of the staff, whether they are paid or volunteer. She has helped to conduct the Sensitivity Awareness Training to over 1,000 facility staff and conducted Sexual Assault training at the area facilities that focused on signs and symptoms of sexual assault, how to talk to the victim, how to proceed and the availability of community resources.
• Judith Williams (Bloomington) – At the East Central Illinois Area Agency on Aging, Judith spends countless hours sitting and talking to and with her residents. She works constantly with her Community Volunteer Ombudsman by encouraging them, supporting them, and helping them gain the knowledge and confidence that is needed to be a great advocate. Judith is resident-driven yet does not fail to involve the facility staff and family members in order to solve the problem at hand.
• Pat Willis (Peoria) – At the Center for Prevention of Abuse, Pat has assisted in developing and presenting a Sensitivity Training to over 1,000 nursing home staff in the region, has helped to collect over 20,000 signatures for a petition to increase the Personal Needs Allowance for residents in long term care facilities, and has met with legislatures to educate them on the need to increase funding to Ombudsman Program. Pat always puts the resident and their needs first, and truly understands her role as a resident advocate.
The 2007 Outstanding Elder Abuse Program Caseworker Award was presented to the following:
• Carol Donegan (Morris) – Working for three years in the Grundy County Health Department, Carol has done an excellent job assisting clients in a number of areas. For example, Carol went to Morris Hospital and was able to get the hospital to agree to writing off hundreds of dollars owed by client. She often goes above and beyond the call of duty to serve the client.
• Julie Fleckenstein (Chicago) – A caseworker at Catholic Charities, Julie has years of experience serving seniors, including in case management, various nursing homes, and eleven years in elder abuse. Even with the most reluctant clients, Julie stays with where her clients are in their dilemma over what to do about the abusive situation. Julie has also conducted numerous elder abuse presentations for professionals in the fields of social work, law enforcement, and health care throughout the years.
• Joseph D. Guiterrez (Chicago) – As the Director of Elder Services for Centers for New Horizons, Joseph is passionate and dedicated to his clients. He serves an advocate for seniors in crisis and continually specializes in the needs of the elder population.
• Jason Johnson (Chicago) – Working at the Centers for New Horizons, Jason not only advocates for his clients, but he often goes beyond the call of duty to assist them. Compassionate and resourceful, Jason has the ability to engage the clients and gain their trust.
• Heather Jones (Northfield) – For more than 4.5 years, Heather has work at the North Shore Senior Center, focused on helping her clients and establishing safe plans for the most vulnerable ones. Throughout the years, Heather has made herself available to families for consultation, has worked with family members or caregivers to reduce risk for the at-risk clients, and has gone the extra mile to assist with the admission process. Heather has also spoken at the Governor’s Conference on Aging in 2003 and at the 2004 Elder Right Conference on therapeutic disclosures made in elder abuse investigations and casework.
• Rebecca Ludens (DeKalb) – A strong client advocate and investigator at the Elder Care Services of DeKalb County, Rebecca is known for her unique ability to connect with clients and often succeeds with hard to serve clients where others have failed. Rebecca has great ability to communicate effectively with vulnerable and sometimes multi-impaired elders.
• Melissa Ross (Springfield) – Serving clients at the Senior Services of Central Illinois, Melissa has shown exemplary advocacy for her clients. Melissa has been instrumental in a number of complicated cases, including a major family financial exploitation case. Melissa is resourceful, empathetic, professional, energetic, but above all, truly believes in what she is doing.
• Nichole Saylor (Toledo) – Serving more than four years as the Elder Abuse Caseworker at Cumberland Associates, Inc., Nichole is able to successfully identify clients who are at risk of abuse and intervene appropriately. An example is when Nichole successfully intervened with an 84 year old female victim of sexual and emotional abuse by her spouse for many years. Several elder abuse caseworkers in the past had tried to help this victim, but the victim refused until Nichole met with her. The client was able to live out the rest of her life surrounded by family who loved her and free of further abuse. Nichole has great respect for each and every client she has encountered.
And the 2007 Outstanding Ombudsman Volunteer Award was presented to the following:
• Hugh Mazza (Evanston) – As a Volunteer Ombudsman for the Legal Assistance Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago, Hugh has proven to be as dedicated to his cases as any paid staff Ombudsman. Spending 50-60 hours a month in long-term care facilities, Hugh has helped to improve the quality of activities at the facilities, has empowered and supported residents to help them self-advocate, and has worked to establish better communication between the health department and the Ombudsman Project. Hugh visits at least three facilities on a weekly basis and can be called on to step in if cases need to be investigated quickly or when his special expertise is needed.
• Sharon Pierce (Springfield) –Serving as the Lead Ombudsman for Logan County, Sharon volunteers her time advocating for residents, helping to organize the Local Trainings and coordinating facility visits. Sharon has been part of I CARE for eleven years and through her dedication, shows how genuinely concerned she is about the residents’ well being.