According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, numerous elderly members of society suffer from physical, emotional, mental and verbal abuse every year. The NCEA posts statistics on elder abuse that are readily available to the public. The NCEA has found that the majority of senior citizens are abused by family members, however, statistics indicating the occurrence of abuse in long-term care facilities are still staggering. Over 3.2 million individuals reside in long-term care facilities. A 2000 research study indicated that 44 percent of the 2,000 interviewed residents stated that they had been abused at some point in the facility.
A Problem Society Can No Longer Ignore
Elder abuse has become a national problem that has even captured the attention of President Obama. A law introduced by Gov. Pat Quinn will give individuals the ability to file online abuse complaints with the Illinois Department of Public Health. Those with complaints will be able to file the complaints on the IDPH website. Illinois politicians believe that the new law will assist experts in analyzing senior abuse trends in the state and nation.
Other states are currently taking advantage of similar online filing systems. In Pennsylvania, individuals can submit electronic abuse complaints to the Pennsylvania Attorney General. In California, concerned individuals can file an online abuse complaint with the California Department of Social Services.
Publicizing the Effort to the Public
The legislature will need to publicize the new law in order to make family members aware of the online filing system. One of the major obstacles in adopting this new filing system will be ensuring that the public understands which government entity is responsible for handling complaints. As one can see, there is no uniform manner in which states handle complaints of elderly abuse. A variety of institutions, including public health systems, social services organizations and attorney general facilities, are responsible for responding to complaints of elder abuse.
Protecting Vulnerable Members of Society
The new law will be vital for continuing to offer protection to Illinois’ most vulnerable members of the community. Those filing complaints will be able to specify the exact type of abuse that a senior citizen has suffered. He or she may specify that the individual has been a victim of unsanitary conditions, developed bedsores, received inadequate treatment, received inadequate nutrition or has been physically abused. Also, the individual filing the report can add his or her comments on the nature of the abuse.
All Forms of Abuse Must Be Reported
Family members or witnesses of abuse should be aware that abuse can take many forms. Individuals are not just limited to filing reports of physical abuse. If they see that an individual has been a victim of verbal abuse, then this is a type of abuse that could be reported. Witnesses may also report instances of sexual abuse or poor care. In fact, witnesses may have a duty under the law to report any instances of abuse that they have seen.
The Basic Rights of Nursing Home Residents
Nursing home residents are afforded certain basic rights under Illinois state law and federal law. It is important that the adequate support and protections are in place to uphold these basic rights. If nursing home workers are able to continually abuse residents without any repercussion, then these laws do not hold any true power. It is up to the public to be aware of nursing home abuse laws and to enforce them by taking advantage of this new reporting system.
If you have a loved one who currently resides in a nursing home, make sure that you are aware of the type of care that he or she receives. It is important that family members make an effort to be involved in the care of a loved one within a nursing home. All too often, abuse can take subtle forms. With the new reporting system in Illinois, you will be able to report elder abuse in any form.