The Growing Need For Elder Abuse Shelters

An article in last month’s NAPSRC Newsletter touched on a unique issue that has implications for those suffering from Illinois elder abuse. The newsletter was published by the National Adult Protective Services Resource Center, which is a group connected to the United States Department of Aging. The newsletter article discussed the potential need for elder abuse shelters. This concept is likely unfamiliar to many community members who do not usually think of the elderly as needing abuse shelters.

The Illinois elder abuse lawyers at our firm time and again have seen cases of horrific mistreatment involving those in one’s own living space-either a family member, so-called friend, tenant, or other individual. For example, the newsletter shared the story of an 86-year old woman named Violet. Violet had moderate dementia, and she had difficulty moving around without a walker. However, she was still able to live in her own home. Violet had an extra room in her house that she rented out to make extra money. At one point she rented out the room to a young male student who attended a university that was nearby.

Not long after the student moved in, few of Violet’s friends noticed some changes. The woman’s behavior seemed to be a little off. In addition, they saw what looked to be bruises on her arms and neck. At one point Violet was brought to a local emergency room for a broken wrist. It was then that the potential elder abuse was reported to local officials. Investigations into the situation revealed that she was being physically abused by her tenant.

This same situation occurs in various forms throughout the county each day, with abuse by live-in family members, visiting friends, neighbors, and others who feel that the vulnerable senior makes an easy target. When these cases arise there is often the immediate problem of where the senior can go while the situation is sorted out. For example, after the emergency room trip Violet could certainly not go back and live with her abuser. However, it is not always possible to immediately force the accused aggressor to move. Instead, our Illinois elder abuse attorneys know that what is needed is some sort of emergency space for the senior to go temporarily. Regular domestic violence shelters are rarely prepared to handle the unique needs faced by abused seniors. The senior may be suffering from mental confusion and likely have unique medical needs.

That is why some senior health organizations are working with local assisted living facilities and other institutions to create temporary elder abuse shelters. What often happens is that the senior living facility agrees to take on the senior in their extra space just so long as other arrangements can be made. This offers the best approach to having spaces which can provide services to seniors who are often physically frail while still being able to accommodate crisis situations where there is little or no warning. All local communities should consider putting some of these elder abuse shelter plans in place to help seniors who find themselves in this situation.

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