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Elder Care Abuse
Serving Cook and DuPage Counties

Elder Abuse Comes in Many Forms

Elder abuse includes physical, emotional, or sexual harm, financial exploitation or neglect of  welfare by those who are directly responsible for care. In the U.S. alone, more than half a million reports of elder abuse reach authorities every year with millions of cases not reported.

As older adults become more physically frail, they’re less able to take care of themselves, stand up to bullying, or fight back if attacked. Loss of hearing, eye sight and memory can place the elderly in a vulnerable situation for unscrupulous people to take advantage of them.

Elder abuse tends to take place where the senior lives. Abusers are often adult children, other family members or a spouse. Elder abuse can also occur in institutional settings, especially long-term care facilities. Peter Wachowski, personal injury attorney in Chicago,can answer any questions you may have regarding elder abuse and establishing a credible case.

Aging Population and Risk of Abuse

Unfortunately elder abuse is not uncommon, a minimum of one out of 20 nursing home patients are victims of negligence or injury (according to the National Center on Elder Abuse). With increased longevity, our aging population is increasing at an alarming rate placing more and more of our elders at risk

If you suspect that an elderly person is being neglected or preyed upon financially, it’s important to speak up. Everyone deserves to live in safety and with dignity and respect. Guidelines can help you recognize the warning signs of elder abuse, understand what the risk factors are, and learn how to prevent and report the problem.  Elder abuse can be a single episode or a repeated act and also includes financial abuse. The challenge with elder abuse is that it’s hard to prove. This is mainly due to either the elder’s inability to communicate or the family members not witnessing the abuse.

Types of Abuse

  • Physical: Someone causes bodily harm by hitting, pushing, or slapping the individual.
  • Emotional: Commonly referred to as psychological abuse. Emotional abuse may include a caregiver saying hurtful words, yelling, threatening, or repeatedly ignoring the older person. Another example could be that the person is stopping the elderly having visitors such as close friends and family members.
  • Neglect: Occurs when those responsible do not provide required care for the individual’s needs (either coordinating or fulfilling and in a timely manner).
  • Abandonment: Leaving elderly alone and not planning for required care.
  • Sexual: Any individual who forces an older adult to watch or be part of sexual acts.
  • Financial: Stealing and/or, mismanaging elder’s financial assets. Financial abuse can include forging checks, taking Social Security benefits and/or Retirement funds. Financial abuse can also include using a person’s credit cards and bank accounts without permission and/or paying or buying things that do not benefit the individual whose name is on the accounts. Also included in Financial abuse are things such as changing names on a will, bank account, life insurance policy, or title to a house without permission from the person.
  • Healthcare: In this category, fraud can be committed by medical professionals, including healthcare workers. Examples of healthcare fraud would include overcharging, billing twice for the same service, falsifying Medicaid or Medicare claims, or charging for care that wasn’t provided. With the amount of medical bills for most elderly, this is an area that needs to be watched consistently.

 Signs of Abuse:

  • Untreated pressure ulcers
  • Malnutrition
  • Dehydration
  • Serious injuries that cannot be explained
  • Unexplained wounds, cuts, bruises and welts
  • Fractures
  • Bed sores or other preventable conditions
  • Weight loss for no reason
  • Depressed or confused
  • Signs of trauma, like rocking back and forth
  • Acts agitated or violent
  • Becomes withdrawn
  • Looks messy, with unwashed hair or dirty clothes
  • Smelly / smells like urine

Potential Causes of Declined Health, Serious Illness or Injury, Changes in Behavior, Death

  • Attacks
  • Beatings
  • Verbal abuse
  • Sexual harassment and / or battery
  • Not given food and drink
  • Restricted from freedom in a physical, chemical or psychotropic way without medical authorization
  • Drug overdose
  • Inappropriate drugs
  • Withholding of drugs

Reporting Elder Abuse

Many seniors don’t report the abuse they face even if they’re able as they are in fear of retaliation from the abuser. The elderly may restrain from reporting abuse if caregivers are their children (ashamed, blame themselves, don’t want them to get into trouble with the law). In any situation of elder abuse, it can be a challenge to respect an older adult’s right to autonomy while at the same time making sure they receive proper care.

If you are an elder who is being abused you must tell at least one person that you fully trust (your doctor, a friend, or a family member). Or call one of the helplines listed below. If you see an older adult being abused or neglected, don’t hesitate to report the situation. And if you see future incidences of abuse, continue to call and report them. Each elder abuse report is a snapshot of what is taking place. The more information provided, the better the chance the elder has of getting the quality of care they need. Older adults can become increasingly isolated from society and therefore, it can be easy for abuse to go unnoticed for long periods.

Illinois Resources
  • The Attorney General provides a Senior Citizens Consumer Fraud Hotline. To contact the hotline please call 1-800-243-5377 or 1-800-964-3013 (TTY).
  • To report abuse, neglect or exploitation of an older person living in the community, please contact the 24-hour Illinois Elder Abuse Hotline at 1-866-800-1409 or 1-888-206-1327 (TTY). Online, visit state.il.us/aging/.
  • To report abuse, neglect or exploitation of an older person living in a long-term care facility, please contact the Department of Public Health at 1-800-252-4343 or 1-800-547-0466 (TTY). Online, visit idph.state.il.us/.

Filing an Elder Abuse Lawsuit

Whether you’re being abused or have an older relative who is being abused, there are courses of action you can take to seek justice and compensation. Understanding who can sue for elder abuse can be tricky and emotionally challenging if the abuser is a close friend, relative or immediate family.

  • Documentation: Before you can file a lawsuit, you generally must have concrete evidence that abuse is taking place, so the first step is gathering evidence and information about the abuse.
  • Right to Sue: If you are not the victim of the abuse, you must be able to show a court that you have the right to sue on your loved one’s behalf. Technically only the abused individual has the right to sue for abuse, and may be incapable of pursuing a lawsuit or interacting with an attorney. In some situations, however, you may have the right to sue on your loved one’s behalf. For example, if a person hired is the one believed to be the abuser, your signature on the contract would give you the right to sue based on contract violation.
  • Power of Attorney (POA): If you lack the authority to do anything about the abuse, you may want to ask your loved if they are willing to legally give you POA. A POA is a document that gives you, as an agent, the power to act on the principal’s behalf. This means that, provided your loved one has the capacity to sign the document, you will be granted power to make financial, legal, and medical decisions on their behalf. If your loved one is mentally incapacitated, this option may not be available. Establishing the POA is something that must be done before the person is unable to handle financial affairs and medical decisions. If the person you believe is abusing your loved one has been appointed an agent, you may want to talk to your loved one and other family members about amending the POA, either to appoint a co-agent or to remove the person and appoint someone new.
  • Consult an attorney: An attorney with experience in elder law can help you assess the laws in your state and your options to take legal action against the person who is abusing your loved one.
  • File your complaint: Once your attorney has enough information about the type of abuse that is taking place and the actions that have been taken against your loved one, he or she will file a complaint in court to initiate your lawsuit. Your attorney will work with you to calculate the damages owed and who should be sued for the abuse or exploitation of your loved one. Keep in mind that if you are filing a personal injury lawsuit, the statute of limitations can be very short, giving you only one or two years after the incident takes place to file a lawsuit.

If you or a loved one is experiencing elder abuse, contact us‌ ‌for‌ ‌a‌ ‌free‌ ‌case‌ ‌review‌ ‌by‌ ‌calling‌ ‌855-980-0078 ‌or‌ ‌complete‌ ‌the‌‌ ‌case‌ ‌request‌ ‌form‌.‌

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