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Elder Abuse – How to Spot It

One of TV’s most successful dramas follows attorney Jimmy McGill in his small-time law practice. In the course of the first season of AMC’s Better Call Saul, McGill uncovers a nursing home money scam and opens an elder abuse case. While this story line makes for great television, in reality, real senior citizens do not receive the respect and care they deserve. In the state of Illinois, reports show that 76,000 elders are victims of elder abuse. But what exactly is elder abuse?

What is elder abuse?

The National Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse defines elder abuse as any form of abuse or neglect that causes harm or loss to an elderly person. The abuse could come at the hands of family members, caregivers, or nursing home workers.

Seniors can suffer

  • loss of independence,
  • their homes,
  • financial earnings and savings,
  • through their health,
  • loss of dignity, and
  • loss of security.

Unfortunately, elders who have experienced abuse have a shorter life expectancy than elders who have not experienced abuse.

If you have noticed any neglect of a senior citizen that includes any of these effects, call the experienced lawyers at The Law Offices of R.F. Wittmeyer, Ltd. Contact us to help evaluate your case and advise you of your legal options.

What forms of elder abuse are there?

There are six major forms of neglect:

  • physical abuse,
  • sexual abuse,
  • domestic violence,
  • psychological abuse,
  • financial abuse,
  • neglect, or
  • health care fraud or abuse.

Although each of these forms of neglecy have specific legal definitions, below are some details of each type of abuse. If any of these definitions apply to a loved one or to you, please contact the Law Offices of R.F. Wittmeyer, Ltd. today for a free consultation about the neglect or other nursing home injuries.

Types of Elder Abuse


Physical abuse includes more than just hitting, pushing, or shoving an elder. Other types of abuse include improperly using drugs, restraining the elderly person, or confining the person.

An elder can suffer emotional abuse, either verbally or nonverbally. Examples of verbal abuse include the use of intimidation via yelling, humiliation, or frequent blaming or scapegoating. Nonverbal emotional abuse can occur when people ignore the elderly person, separate them from friends or regular activities, or terrorize the individual.

Elder sexual abuse occurs when a person makes any sexual contact with an elderly person without consent. Showing sexual explicit materials to elderly persons also constitutes sexual abuse.

Domestic violence occurs between the elder and an intimate partner.

Financial abuse occurs whenever a person inappropriately uses an elderly person’s funds, property, or other assets. These inappropriate uses can take the form of large withdrawals from bank accounts, changes in the elderly person’s financial stability, wills, power of attorney, titles, or policy changes that seem strange or unlikely, unpaid bills, or unreasonable and unnecessary subscriptions to services or goods.

While the first five are self-explanatory, neglect can occur when a caregiver fails to provide necessary and proper care or in the form of self-neglect, the failure to provide for one’s own essential needs.

Healthcare fraud occurs when an elderly person is put into the care of an institution. This institution acts as the elderly person’s caregiver and many times is responsible for paying the person’s bills and other basic and necessary tasks. Healthcare abuse can occur in the forms of duplicate billing for medical services, overmedicated or undermedicated, and subpar care for the elderly person. Many times healthcare providers provide inadequate care due to lack of trained workers, overcrowding of facilities, or poor follow-up and responses to questions regarding care.

What are the signs of elder abuse?

Many times, signs of elder abuse can seem like symptoms of dementia, or caregivers may state that an elder’s actions are due to dementia. While many signs of elder abuse reflect signs of dementia, the following signs of abuse should not be dismissed:

  • Regular period of tension or arguments between the elderly person and his or her caregiver
  • Changes in the personality of the elderly person
  • Changes in the behavior of the elderly person

While these signs do not always stem from cases of elder abuse, it is important to check on an elderly person when these signs are present. If you have seen any of these signs in regards to a relative or loved one, contact the Law Offices of R.F. Wittmeyer, Ltd. for a free consultation today. Experienced attorneys can help you identify the signs of elder abuse when you need information.

How do you report elder abuse?

Many people do not know who to turn to when they see their loved ones suffering abuse. First, you can contact the experienced senior citizen care and nursing home abuse attorneys at the Law Offices of R.F. Wittmeyer, Ltd. Our consultations are free and confidential. Additionally, you are under no obligation to choose our law firm.

If you want other information, the state of Ilinois has several agencies to fight against elder abuse. These three agencies are

  1. the Adult Protective Services,
  2. Long Term Care Ombudsman Program, and
  3. Legal Services Development Program.

First, according to the Illinois Department on Aging, Adult Protective Services acknowledges the right for elderly people “to live in dignity and safety, free from mistreatment of any kind.” Illinois’s Adult Protect Services responds to reports of elder abuse. The program helps to represent and protect persons 60 years or older that live in a specific community.

Additionally, the Long Term Care Ombudsman Program aims to promote the rights of elderly person and to protect those rights in long-term care facilities such as nursing homes.t

Lastly, the Legal Services Development Program provides legal services and advice for elders.

However, there are many different ways to report elder abuse depending upon what kind of elder abuse is occurring. For example, to file a claim regarding discrimination or sexual harassment, contact the Illinois Department of Human Rights via phone or letter to either their Chicago or Springfield office. However, remember to follow the specific filing deadlines found online at

The attorneys at the Law Offices of R.F. Wittmeyer, Ltd. can assist you with any of these needs.

Senior Helpline

The Adult Protective Services Program maintains a Senior Helpline that provides assistance to elders. According to the Senior Helpline website, the program follows a HELP mantra, an acronym that states the program’s mission to (1) Help elders local necessary services in their community, (2) Evaluate elders needs as well as answer questions, (3) Link elders to coordination services within their areas, and (4) Provide information.  The Helpline is not only for elders but for their caregivers as well. The organization works in coalition with the Long-Term Care Ombudsman program, legal services, transportation, employment, and nutrition services.

The Senior Helpline is available Monday through Friday 8:30am to 5:00pm Central Standard Time by dialing 1-800-252-8966 or emailing at For 24-hour assistant, dial 1-866-800-1409 for the Adult Protective Services Hotline.

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