SPRINGFIELD – Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today launched the fourth annual statewide “Break the Silence” campaign and proclaimed July as Elder Abuse Awareness Month in Illinois. The Governor and the Illinois Department on Aging (IDoA) 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 on call prepared to assist. More than 10,000 reports of elder abuse were made during FY 08, which reflects a 16 percent increase in reporting since the campaign was initiated.
“Our seniors have the right to be treated with dignity, respect, and to feel safe and secure. Unfortunately, many seniors find themselves victims of abuse and neglect which is unacceptable,” said Gov. Blagojevich. “The sooner we know about a case of abuse, the sooner we can put a stop to it. But in order to keep up the fight against abuse and neglect, we need everyone to do their part. If you suspect a case of elder abuse report it. Elder Abuse prevention will help keep thousands of seniors safe each year.”
It is estimated as many as 80,000 older adults in Illinois are elder abuse victims. Elder abuse is defined as neglect, physical injury, mental, sexual, or financial exploitation to an adult 60 years of age or older. If you suspect someone is being abused, the following indicators may point to a problem:
· Untreated injuries, sprains or dislocations, scratches and cuts
· Sudden changes 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 a victim’s bank signature card, unauthorized withdrawal of the victim’s funds using the victim’s ATM or credit card and abrupt changes in a will or other financial documents.
“Elder abuse happens everyday and most often the cases go unreported,” said IDoA Director Charles D. Johnson. “We’re working to raise awareness so victims know there is help. I encourage anyone who is a victim of elder abuse or suspect abuse to call our 24-hour Elder Abuse Hotline so that we can help. No one has to go it alone.”
Since the start of the “Break the Silence” campaign the number of reports of elder abuse has continued to increase. In FY 05, the year prior to starting the campaign, 8,584 reports of elder abuse were received. In FY 06, during the first campaign year, the number of elder abuse reports increased to 9,191. During the second year of the campaign in FY 07, the number of reports increased to 9,535.
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 on call and 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 service 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 “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 22nd Annual Elder Rights Conference August 26-29, 2008, in Chicago to educate professionals on topics including elder abuse prevention. This year’s conference is being held in conjunction with the annual National Adult Protective Services Association Conference.
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 80,000 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 2008 as ELDER ABUSE AWARENESS MONTH in Illinois, and encourage all citizens
to recognize this crisis and join in working toward its prevention.