A New Year’s Resolution: Improving Elder Abuse Awareness and Prevention in 2012

In 2011, elder abuse was brought to the forefront of the media’s attention when beloved entertainer, Mickey Rooney, became yet another victim of elder abuse proclaiming to the Supreme Court of the United States, “If elder abuse can happen to me, it can happen to anybody.”

The Obliviousness of the Federal Government

Yet, despite this growing epidemic of abuse, approximately 6 million cases nationally every year, the government seems to be neglecting offering any support, research, or progress- burying their heads in the sand under budget crisis and campaign promises. Although Obama passed the Elder Justice Act almost two years ago, congress has still failed to provide ANY funding, leaving another empty promise on the table. According to Robert Blancato, of the Elder Justice Coalition in a Huffington Post article, older voters represent about 23% of the voting population, a segment that politicians cannot afford to ignore. Mr. Blancato also states that the amount of funding needed to ignite the Elder Justice Act is just “5% of what was recovered last year by the federal government in fraud and waste in Medicare and Medicaid.”

Chicago’s Response

Despite the national stalemate, locally, elder abuse was addressed in 2011. The Circuit Court of Cook County announced the formation of a new division known as Elder Law and Miscellaneous Remedies to specifically address cases of elder abuse. Cook County State’s Attorney, Anita Alvarez, created an Elder Abuse Task Force to investigate cases of elder abuse as well. Also, due to rampant financial exploitation, Illinois revised the powers of attorney forms, to expand protection for the principal (often seniors) from financial exploitation and elevate the standard of care and expectations of the agent. Elder aaw attornies are taking a lead in informing older adults about their rights and protecting them from abuse.

Looking Forward

Although the nation is cutting back due to a shaky economy and an overwhelming budget deficit, we cannot push aside such a prevalent issue that is affecting each and every family. Even with the terrifying statistics I stated above, Dr. Mark Lachs, Director of Geriatrics for the New York Presbyterian Healthcare System, points out in an article in AARP, “For every case that is reported, some two dozen go undetected.” The only way we can begin to combat these cases and get the funding, staffing, education and legislation we need is through Federal support and recognition that this IS an issue that must be addressed, and before 2013 rolls around.

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Kate Konieczny is the marketing coordinator for Peck Bloom, LLC, an elder law firm in Chicago. Through her position, Kate helps promote elder law services such as guardianship, Alzheimer’s disease planning, litigation related to wills and trusts and estate planning services.Kate graduated with honors from Eastern Illinois University with a degree in English and journalism. While a student at Eastern, Kate was an active writer and copy editor for the Daily Eastern News, managing editor of The Warbler yearbook, and a freelance writer for the Southtown Star and the Coles County Newspaper. After graduation, Kate spent a year abroad in Taipei, Taiwan teaching English. Kate is an active member of the Legal Marketing Association, “Muliple Solutions,” the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Illinois’ Junior Board, and an active volunteer with the Lincoln Park Village, a not-for-profit community of resources that helps people 50+ continue to live independently.

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