Director Paula Basta of the Illinois Department on Aging rightly urges increased reporting of elder abuse to the DOA.
Yet while physical and financial abuse are criminalized under Illinois law — the abusive isolation that enables them is not. Typically, abuse starts with someone exploiting an elder’s traumatic health decline and loss of independence to frighten and emotionally isolate the elder from those who've been closest to him for years.
But even if you report this isolation to the DOA, only in rare cases can the department help. Sometimes there really is no one but the abuser who wants to be in the elder’s life. But in many other cases, good-actor family, long involved in supporting their elder’s independence, are falsely and traumatically attacked by a bad-actor relative in order to paralyze them emotionally, then strip them of legal proxies so the attacker can seize control.
Often, despite being hellishly attacked, these good-actor family members want to go on helping and protecting their elder. But without help, they can’t even protect themselves from the withering, one-sided war being waged on them through the elder, himself. This is where the state must step in. Only with the state’s help can families under assault protect the precious, longstanding relationships with their elders that will always be our elders’ best protection from abuse.