Elder Abuse and Neglect Act
The Elder Abuse and Neglect Act assures that local agencies will be funded by the Illinois Department on Aging to offer help to persons age 60 and older who may be abused, neglected, or exploited by family, household members, or caregivers. Any person who suspects the abuse, neglect, or financial exploitation of such a person may report this suspicion to the designated local agency.
Any person who makes a report believing that it is in the senior’s best interests is immune from consequences such as criminal or civil liability, or professional disciplinary action. The identity of the person making a report cannot be disclosed by the agency or by the Department on Aging to anyone else unless it is that person consents or if a court order demands it.
Certain kinds of people must report abuse of a senior if they think that the senior is unable to seek help for themselves. These people are called mandated reporters. Social workers, policemen, teachers, and doctors are all examples of mandated reporters.
Mandatory reporting does not apply to lawyers and legal service providers or bankers.
Procedure when an agency receives a report of abuse
The agency must make face-to-face contact with the senior once a case of abuse or neglect is reported. This visit shall be to the senior’s residence and may include interviews with others who have information about the senior's situation. No one has the right to interfere with the meeting between the senior and the protective services caseworker. See a list of agencies throughout the state of Illinois here
If there is a reason to believe abuse has occurred, the agency must develop a service care plan to meet the senior’s needs and discuss the plan with the senior. The agency can provide only those services to which the senior consents. The caseworker designs the services so the senior can continue to function as independently as possible.
If a senior cannot consent to necessary services, including an assessment, the Department on Aging or the local agency can try to have a guardian appointed to consent. If an emergency exists, the Department or agency can request an order from the court authorizing an assessment and the provision of necessary services.
Access to records or reports of elder abuse are confidential and cannot be disclosed except as strictly limited by the Act.
To make a general complaint, call the statewide Senior HelpLine at (800) 252-8966 (toll-free) or to (800) 279-0400 on evenings, weekends and holidays.
For residents who live in nursing facilities, call the Illinois Department of Public Health's Nursing Home Complaint Hotline at (800) 252-4343.
For residents who live in Supportive Living Facilities (SLFs), call the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services' SLF Complaint Hotline at (800) 226-0768.
Self-neglect happens when a senior is unable to take care of their health and day-to-day care. Self-neglect is a condition where an eligible adult cannot perform essential self-care tasks that substantially threaten his or her health, due physical or mental impairments, or both, or diminished capacity. These tasks include: providing essential food, clothing, shelter and healthcare; and obtaining goods and services necessary to maintain physical health, mental health, emotional well-being and general safety.
In the case of self-neglect, there is no criminal or offender. Anyone concerned about a senior and self-neglect should contact their local aging agency.
Illinois Domestic Violence Act
The Illinois Domestic Violence Act protects from abuse by a family member or other members of the household. This law is intended to protect the victim but does not punish the abuser. However, once abuse is proven, the law provides wide discretion for judges to order actions as part of an Order of Protection to stop the abuse. The Act protects elders adults with disabilities from neglect and financial exploitation as well as from abuse.
A senior, on his or her behalf, or another person on the senior’s behalf, can ask the court for an Order of Protection.
- Sexual abuse;
- Physical force;
- Emotional abuse;
- Confinement or restraint;
- Threats of physical force;
- Reckless conduct which creates an immediate risk of physical harm;
- Deprivation of basic needs such as medicine or food, or exposing a person to risk of harm;
- Financial exploitation;
- Harassment; and
- Subjecting a person who is dependent on others to witness or participate in any physical force or confinement of another person.
What is an order of protection?
An Order of Protection is a court order that helps protect victims from abuse by family or household members. An Order of Protection is a legal paper that a judge signs which orders the abuser to stop the abusive behavior.
Also, a court can award physical care and possession of minor children, award temporary legal custody of children, determine visitation, order the abuser to pay temporary support to the victim and/or children, and prohibit the abuser from removing the child from the state or concealing the child within the state.
In an Order of Protection, the judge can order an abuser to do one or more of the following:
- Stop the abuse, neglect or exploitation;
- Leave the home of the senior and not return, or not return under the influence of drugs or alcohol;
- Stay away from the senior;
- Return property and money, or refrain from taking, transferring or destroying property;
- Require going to counseling;
- Pay the victim for losses suffered as a direct result of the abuse (medical and dental expenses, repair/replace damaged property, attorney’s fees, court costs, etc.);
- Reimburse a domestic violence program providing temporary shelter to a senior.
A person being abused can get a temporary Emergency Order of Protection without telling the abuser. This may keep the abuser from hurting the senior, destroying the senior’s property, or taking the senior’s assets before there is a chance to have a full court hearing. Orders of Protection involve no court costs. To get an Order of Protection for yourself or someone you know, call your local legal services office or the State’s Attorney’s office.
If the abuser continues to abuse in violation of an Order of Protection, the abuser may face criminal charges.
For more information about Orders of Protection, see Filing an order of protection for domestic violence or workplace violence.
Criminal neglect of a senior
A caregiver of an elderly person commits the offense of "criminal neglect of an elderly person" when they knowingly:
- Perform an act which causes the senior's life to be endangered, health to be injured, or cause deterioration of their physical or mental condition;
- Fail to perform acts which the caregiver knows or should know are necessary to maintain the life or health of the senior;
- Abandon the senior; or
- Physically abuse, harass, intimidate, or interfere with the senior’s liberty or exposes the senior to willful deprivation.
The term "caregiver" means a person other than a doctor who must care for the health and personal care of the senior at their place of residence. It can include a spouse or other family member or an employee.
This crime is a Class 3 felony. The maximum punishment is imprisonment for a term of not less than two years and not more than five years.
Criminal financial exploitation of an elderly person
This offense is committed when a person who stands in a position of trust and confidence to an old person takes their property using deception or intimidation or illegally uses their assets or resources.
A "person who stands in a position of trust and confidence" is:
- A parent, spouse, child or another related person;
- A person who co-owns property with the senior;
- A person who has a legal or fiduciary relationship with the senior, such as guardians or power of attorney agents.
- Financial planning or investment professional.
This crime is a felony. Punishment depends on how much is taken; the greater the value of the property, the greater the punishment. If the amount stolen is greater than $100,000, charges can be brought against the thief within seven years of the crime.
In addition to the criminal penalty, the senior can sue any person who has been charged with this crime and fails or refuses to return the victim’s property within 60 days following a written demand. In this case, the person is liable to the senior for three times the value of the property taken, plus court costs and attorney’s fees.
Other criminal laws that help seniors
There are other laws designed to deter and punish abusers for crimes such as assault and battery, and others. You should report crimes against seniors to the State’s Attorney’s office.
Where to get help for seniors who are being neglected
If you are 60 or older, and you are being neglected, abused, or taken advantage of, or if you suspect that someone who is 60 or older is in that situation, you may call the Elder Abuse Hotline at (800) 252-8966 (toll free), (866) 800-1409 (after hours hotline), or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To obtain an Order of Protection, contact the local domestic violence program for assistance. Other resources include police departments, State’s Attorney’s offices, social service agencies, and legal services offices.