The law extends the statute of limitations for such crimes from three years to seven years, according to a news release from Sen. Gary Forby, D-Benton, a co-sponsor of the legislation.
The measure was signed into law by Rauner on Monday and is effective immediately.
“Unfortunately, the financial abuse of seniors and the disabled is on the rise,” Forby said in a statement. “It can force these vulnerable populations into dire financial situations, robbing them of their savings, their financial security and even their homes.
“It’s important that we continue to make necessary changes to our current safeguards to help prevent this type of abuse from occurring.”
Reported rates of elder abuse in Southern Illinois are higher than state and national averages. David Mitchell, the adult protective services unit director at Shawnee Alliance, a nonprofit that serves area seniors, recently told the newspaper that the rate of abuse of seniors and people with disabilities in Shawnee alliance’s 13-county catchment area is about 15 per 1,000 people. The statewide and nationwide rate is about 3.5 per 1,000 people, Mitchell said.
While recognizing elder abuse as a serious problem across the country, Mitchell also noted that this area may experience higher rates, in part, because of the awareness that has been created by Shawnee Alliance. The agency’s extensive outreach and education efforts on the issue of elder abuse are a positive for the region, he said.
Abuse can take many forms, including abuse that is physical, emotional or financial abuse or exploitation. It can rise to the level of a criminal offense, in which case that must be reported to the authorities, though Mitchell noted that often times the abuse is more subtle and involves exploitation by a family member that uses sob stories that may or may not be true, or threats not to visit an older person that is lonely, to convince her to fork over funds, sometimes funds she doesn’t have to give.
In a June interview, on the eve of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, Mitchell said in an interview that by far the most common form of abuse cases reported to Shawnee Alliance involve financial exploitation. The most likely abuser is a family member or other trusted caregiver, he said.
Shawnee Alliance’s protective service unit investigates reports of abuse to adults age 60 and older, as well as adults with disabilities, broadly defined, ages 18 to 59.
The measure was House Bill 5805. It was co-sponsored by Rep. John Bradley, D-Marion, in the House. The vote to change the statute of limitations was unanimous in the House and Senate.
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New law extends statute of limitations in financial exploitation cases involving elderly, disabled