No one likes to talk about it, but it happens every day. However, this crisis remains vastly under-identified and under-reported.
The Illinois Department on Aging is on pace to respond to more than 20,000 reports of abuse of adults 60 years of age and older, and persons 18-59 with a disability this fiscal year, which ends on June 30.
As Americans, we believe in justice for all. Yet we fail to live up to this promise when we allow members of our society to be abused or neglected.
Abuse takes many forms that include financial exploitation, emotional abuse, passive neglect, physical abuse, willful deprivation, confinement and sexual abuse; and these often occur in tandem. Victims are often abused by family members or other relatives — and abuse, neglect and exploitation of any individual is an affront to human rights in Illinois and around the world.
We all have the right to be treated with dignity and respect — to feel safe and secure. Unfortunately, many of our most vulnerable citizens find themselves victims at the hands of individuals they have trusted.
Fact is, it’s challenging for older adults to stay involved with and be connected to our communities as they age. As a result, older individuals are more likely to experience social isolation, which increases the likelihood of abuse and neglect. But it doesn’t have to be that way. There is help.
If you are a victim of abuse, neglect, or financial exploitation — or suspect that someone you know is a victim — call our statewide 24-hour Abuse Hotline at 866-800-1409. The sooner we know about the abuse, the sooner we can put a stop to it.
June 15 is Elder Abuse Awareness Day in Illinois. And to that end, I encourage all of us to educate ourselves on elder abuse; how we can recognize the signs, provide intervention and stop this abuse from happening.
We must, as a community, work together to make a difference in the lives of our older adults living in our neighborhoods.
We owe it to our elders to respect yesterday, support today, and plan for tomorrow.
Paula Basta, Chicago
Note to readers: Paula Basta, M.Div., is director of the Illinois Department on Aging.