CHICAGO, IL – Elder abuse is a serious matter for which state and federal laws impose heavy punishment. It is punishable by law nationwide, and many states have special laws that enact harsher penalties for crimes committed against the elderly. You can view Illinois law and penalties for nursing home abuse and neglect here [(210 ILCS 30/) Abused and Neglected Long Term Care Facility Residents Reporting Act].
Victims of abuse living alone or residing in nursing homes could continue suffering without their families knowing. It is even more devastating for elderly victims who no longer have family members living nearby and are thus easy targets for theft and abuse.
Defining Elder Abuse
The U.S. Department of Justice defines elder abuse as harmful actions, whether intentional or unintentional, that harm an older person or put them at great risk.
The DOJ recognizes five types of elder abuse:
- Financial Exploitation
- Neglect and Abandonment
Abuse can occur at home or in a nursing home facility, and people guilty of elderly crimes can be caretakers, nurses, specialists/professionals, family members, friends, neighbors or random strangers on the street.
What is the Penalty for Criminal Elder Abuse?
Anyone proven guilty of criminal elder abuse will be subject to penalties. Each state approaches elder abuse cases differently. However, a common factor is that states have statutes allowing their courts to enhance penalties based on aggravating factors like the victim’s age, mental aptitude, physical condition, injuries sustained and more.
Penalities for Elderly Abuse Charges
It depends on the charges made against the abuser what the criminal penalty for elder abuse is. Elderly abuse is a broad term and certain crimes against the elderly can be classified under specific charges.
Some examples of the specific charges that can be filed against abusers include:
- Physical abuse: Rough treatment of the elderly resulting in pain, impairment or physical injuries that may include charges such as assault, aggravated assault, battery, unlawful imprisonment or unlawful restraint.
- Psychological abuse: Verbal or emotional abuse that causes emotional pain, distress and suffering that may include charges such as harassment, stalking, hate crimes, violation of no contact or violation of protection order.
- Sexual abuse: Nonconsensual sexual contact or non-contact with an older person that may include charges such as sexual assault, rape, sexual battery, voyeurism and indecent liberties.
- Financial exploitation: Illegal acquisition or use of an elderly’s money, property, or assets that may include charges such as forgery, fraud, embezzlement, identity theft, larceny, residential burglary, theft and money laundering.
- Neglect and abandonment: Intentional or unintentional failure or refusal to provide care to an elderly who is under the supervision of a professional or someone who owes them a duty of care that may include charges such as abandonment, felony murder, manslaughter, murder, negligent or involuntary homicide.
If proven guilty of elder abuse or any of these possible charges, the person or organization will be subject to state or federal laws (depending on the jurisdiction) and their corresponding penalties.
The Elder Justice Act
In 2010, then-President Obama signed the Elder Justice Act (EJA) into law, making it a crucial part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. This Act is a form of social service dedicated to seniors 60 years and older.
The EJA was created to protect the elderly and their autonomy and prosecute those proven guilty of committing crimes against the elderly and is the first comprehensive national legislation for elder abuse.
One of the most notable requirements of the EJA is that owners, managers, employees, agents and contractors of nursing care facilities must report incidents of abuse that occur on their premises. Failure to report such incidents can result in a $200,000 to $300,000 fine. If a facility is found to have retaliated against the victim, they will get fined again of up to $200,000, in addition to being prohibited from participating in any federal healthcare program for two years.
Red Flags of Elderly Abuse
According to the DOJ, more than 10 percent of the elderly in the country (people 65 years and older) experience some form of abuse. These acts can range from verbal to physical and may lead to devastating consequences for the victims and their families including injury leading to disability, deterioration of physical and mental health, broken familial ties/discord between family members, financial loss and premature death of the elderly.
According to the same report by DOJ, only one in 23 elder abuse cases is reported to authorities. You may ask yourself — why does elder abuse go under the radar? There are various reasons this can occur, including:
- The victim lives in a nursing home far from where their family lives.
- The victim lives with an abusive relative or caretaker.
- The family seldom visits the victim in their private residence or nursing home.
- The victim doesn’t recognize abuse or is deceived by the abuser and doesn’t report anything to the nursing home’s administration or their family.
- The abuser threatens the victim with bodily harm or retaliation if they report abuse to the administration or their family.
- The victim feels guilty or ashamed of their situation.
It’s important for families to recognize signs of abuse and report instances of this as soon as possible. Some crucial red flags to look out for include:
- Bruises, cuts, burns, lacerations or scars
- Rope marks or other visible signs that they’re being restrained
- Unexplained weight loss
- Poor self-care and grooming
- Bed sores or pressure ulcers
- Uncharacteristic social withdrawal
- Losing interest in hobbies or activities
- Difficulty sleeping
- Agitation or violence
- Their room lacks evidence of basic care including clean bedsheets or prepared medications
- Unkept room
- Numerous unpaid bills despite being financially stable
Protect Your Loved Ones and Seek Justice Against Elder Abuse with the Dinizulu Law Group in Chicago, Illinois
If you suspect an elderly family or friend has been a victim of abuse, consult with our attorneys at the Dinizulu Law Group. We have years of experience representing victims of elder abuse and their families, fighting for their rights and ensuring they are fairly compensated for the harm and suffering they endured.
If you want to understand the civil elder abuse lawyers in Illinois and what damages your loved one is entitled to receive, our nursing home abuse and neglect lawyers can help. Fill out this form or call us today at (312) 384-1920 for a free consultation.