According to the Illinois Department on Aging, most abusers are family members; 80% were either spouse, child or other relative. It is also assumed that incidents are often underreported because of this — and the victim may not want to report it out of fear of further abuse.
Anyone who sees, hears or interacts with elders has the power to speak for the ones who may be victims. Many professions are even mandated by law to report. We think to ourselves, “I will just let someone else report that” or “I am not sure if that qualifies as abuse or not, so I don’t think I will report it”.
Being able to identify elder abuse as a professional, family member, or friend and knowing how to report it is very important. Below you can find information on some of the main forms of abuse, as well as information on how to report.
1. Physical abuse — This is the most recognizable type of abuse. Typical signs include bruises, burns, pain, illness, or other physical injury.
2. Emotional abuse — This may be harder to identify than physical abuse. Look out for signs like unexplained or uncharacteristic changes in the elder’s personality, the abuser attempting to isolate the elder by not allowing others to speak with the elder without the caregiver’s presence, and the abuser being verbally controlling, personally demeaning or aggressive to the elder.
3. Financial abuse — Signs may include the lack of basics in the elder’s home, such as food and toiletries; or that the abuser may have control of the elder’s money, but is obviously not using it for the elder’s personal needs.
4. Sexual abuse — Signs may include having problems walking or sitting, bruises on genital area or thigh, bleeding in genital area or engaging in inappropriate or unusual sexual activities.
To report elder abuse, call the Illinois Adult Protective Services hotline at 866-800-1409.