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Secretary Sebelius on Fighting Elder Abuse

This week the United States Secretary of Health and Human Services published an op-ed in the USA Today that delved into an issue of paramount important for our Chicago nursing home neglect lawyers: elder abuse. The editorial comes amid the 7th Annual World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, which for the first time ever included a White House symposium. The increased awareness and advocacy for these efforts on the part of high-ranking government officials is quite welcome.

Looming Crisis
In the editorial, Secretary Sebelius explained how the problem of elder mistreatment is bad now and will only get worse. She explained how every day 10,000 more Americans turn 65 years old. In the next thirty years the total number of Americans over that threshold is expected to double. The total population over 85 years old is expected to rise much faster–increasing by 400% by 2050.

The rising demographics will have very real consequences on the care that is needed in the future. If we are struggling to provide that care now, one can only imagine the problems in the future. Each Illinois nursing home neglect lawyer at our firm appreciates that It will take clear and decisive action now to ensure that communities are prepared to meet the needs of this aging population and provide care and support void of mistreatment and neglect.

Current Abuse
The editorial noted that today about one in ten senior Americans experience some kind of abuse–from financial exploitation and physical abuse to mental and sexual assault. As we frequently note, the majority of this abuse is never reported. The best estimates indicate that only about one in 24 cases makes it way to the desk of some authorities. It is logical to assume that part of the reason that the abuse occurs so frequently is that wrongdoers are so rarely held accountable. The deterrence system is failing.

Secretary Sebelius argues that improving the situation requires raising awareness about the problem. There can be little progress when so much of the abuse is not uncovered and there is no accountability. She noted that the problem is two-fold. First, there are times when outside observers simply do not recognize abuse. Second, sometimes outsiders understand that mistreatment is occurring but they do not step in to speak out and put an end to it. We need to address both issues.

Awareness efforts can help in both regards. By sharing the stories of abuse and explaining how it arises and can be recognized, the hope is that societal views will change. No longer will observers remain silent, but there will instead be consistent accountability when spotted. In a legal sense, our elder abuse attorneys understand that much more abuse occurs than is ever brought to our attention. A difficult part of our work is getting families to understand that they have legal options when their loved ones do not receive the basic treatment to which they are entitled. If you are in our area and suspect that a nursing home resident that you know was hurt by inadequate or intentionally abusive care, please get in touch with our team to see how we can help.

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