America is aging. As discussed recently in the USA Today, every day 10,000 people in the United States celebrate their 65th birthday. Between 2010 and 2030, the number of Americans 65 and older will nearly double, and the number of those 85 and older is on pace to grow more than 400% by 2050.
All states, including Illinois, must confront this reality and craft clear plans to ensure seniors in the future have access to the care they need free of abuse and exploitation. Luckily, some advocates and officials are working in this state on just that mission.
For example, during a recent panel at the law school, Barry Kozak, director of the Elder Law Program at The John Marshall Law School in Chicago, said, “Illinois is a leader in protecting its elderly population through a host of special laws. As such, lawyers often are empowered as seniors’ first, strongest allies against abuse.” In addition, in October more local leaders were added to the State’s Attorney’s Elder Abuse Task Force
On top of that, Circuit Court of Cook County Chief Judge Timothy C. Evans is reshaping the Circuit Court leadership and has formed a new Elder Justice Center by the appointment of new Presiding Judges and Supervising Judges in almost half of the court’s divisions and districts and the creation of a new division dedicated to elder law matters, the Elder Law and Miscellaneous Remedies Division established pursuant to General Order 1.2, 2.1 (h) of the General Orders of the Circuit Court of Cook County to hear cases arising under the Elder Abuse and Neglect Act, 320 ILCS 20/1, et seq., cases arising under the Illinois Power of Attorney Act, 755 ILCS 45/1‑1, et seq., domestic violence cases as defined in Part 22 of the rules of this court, and felonies in which the victim is an elderly person.
And as Illinois increases focus on these issues, Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of Health and Human Services has announced that the Obama administration has put a new focus on protecting America's seniors. There is a new national resource center that serves as a one-stop shop for state officials who want to build more effective programs to prevent elder abuse and the newly established Office for Older Americans in the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau provides seniors and their caregivers with simple guidance on how to protect against identify theft, choose a reputable financial adviser and get help if they think they've been scammed.
Under the Affordable Care Act there is also new funding that will help address the deficit of solid research on how to stop elder abuse by helping states test promising new approaches. For example, a state might study the effects of training caregivers to recognize and report abuse. In addition, the U.S. Health and Human Services will be convening a first-of-its-kind, high-level federal council that will help coordinate previously disconnected elder abuse initiatives across the federal government and determine what further actions are necessary to better protect our senior citizens.
For help learning how you can take advantage of available legal tools to ensure accountability following Illinois elder abuse, contact our legal team today.