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New Laws on the Books to Prevent Illinois Elder Abuse and Neglect

The Chicago Law Bulletin reported late last month on several new measures recently signed into law to protect seniors from a range of harms. Considering the scope of the elder abuse problem on which our Chicago nursing home neglect lawyers so often speak, these new efforts are undoubtedly a welcome addition.

All told there were a dozen new measures signed by Governor Pat Quinn aimed at preventing senior exploitation in various forms. Many of the bills focused on financial abuse–a growing and all-too-hidden issue. The bills specifically expand the power of prosecutors to fight financial mistreatment. This measure (HB 5653) allows prosecutors to freeze the assets of defendants charged with elder financial exploitation. This is crucial, as it ensure that the defendant is not able to spend the stolen assets or even use them for their own legal defense. It seems perverse that one who steals from a senior could use the money in their defense–even if found guilty, the senior would often be left without any recourse to recover their losses.

In addition, another bill enacts safeguards so that a senior’s power of attorney remains intact regardless of certain financial agreements. The basic idea is that certain companies can help with one’s business finances without eliminating the power of attorney. This helps ensure that there are separate sets of eyes on a seniors income. In the past, there was only one power of attorney and nothing else . However, now various “power of attorney-like agreements” can be created with an overall power of attorney kept intact.

Yet another bill allows for online reporting of elder abuse to the Illinois Department on Aging. The measure also calls for local police officers to receive training in recognizing and responding to crimes targeting local seniors. These measures will hopefully go a long way to helping uncover more crimes against the elderly.

These sort of changes may seem subtle, but it is often a steady build-up of important rules that help ensure as much protection as possible for those at risk of being hurt as a result of the vulnerability that often comes with age.

In addition, our Illinois nursing home abuse attorneys know that another law signed at the same time will go a long way to help families following problematic care. The law makes it easier for family members to obtain medical records following a loved one’s passing. Receiving these records is important to determine exactly how and why one passed away. Proving nursing home neglect requires getting this information information in a reasonable and timely fashion.

The new law prevents medical facilities for charging a fee for those records. In addition, the facility is required to give the records to the executor of the estate or designated family members if asked.

This law was backed by the Illinois State Bar Association as a common sense measure to ensure fairness in the process following a death. Similar legislation was passed last year. However, that old measure did not fit perfectly with federal privacy rules. Therefore, this new version was drafted and passed to better balance privacy needs from the federal level.

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Elder Abuse Prevention Laws Strengthened