What if you suspect abuse, neglect or financial exploitation?
Illinois law (like the law of many other states) requires that certain individuals report instances of abuse, neglect or financial exploitation to the Illinois Adult Protective Services Program; failure to do so can be a crime. Recovering damages from exploiters and abusers can be difficult but rewarding. Illinois law makes it illegal to abuse, neglect or exploit a “vulnerable” adult. In addition, the law imposes an affirmative duty on some individuals to report suspected abuse, neglect and exploitation to the authorities.
When suspected abuse or neglect has occurred, reports must be made to the appropriate police department or Sheriff’s Office or, if the person making the report prefers, to Adult Protective Service. Financial exploitation must be reported to either of those agencies. Failure to make the report is a misdemeanor, punishable by fines, jail time and a year’s probation.
Once abuse, neglect or exploitation has been reported to the authorities, an investigation will be undertaken. Adult Protective Services has a particularly powerful mandate to investigate such complaints, and has been given extraordinary authority to subpoena bank and medical records, to look at the perpetrator’s financial affairs, and to gain access to victims even if they express a desire not to be contacted. The name of the referring party, the information gathered and the results of Adult Protective Services investigations are ordinarily kept private, though they may be revealed in court proceedings undertaken to protect the victim from further abuse or to regain lost assets.
Abuse, neglect and exploitation against vulnerable adults is a growing problem in our society. While there are frustrations and difficulties with the available remedies, there are some powerful weapons available. In any event, many individuals who witness abuse, elder neglect or financial exploitation or who suspect that it is occurring, have an affirmative legal obligation to report what they know to the authorities.