Wisconsin’s population aged 65 and older is projected to increase by nearly 100 percent between 2010 and 2040, according to recent data from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS).
With these sizeable demographic changes on the horizon, Wisconsin is taking steps to limit elder abuse, including nursing home neglect and abuse. In 2017, State Attorney General Brad Schimel announced the creation of the Attorney General’s Task Force on Elder Abuse to combat a problem that is already growing at an alarming rate.
According to the DHS, allegations of elder abuse, neglect and exploitation in Wisconsin increased 160 percent from 2001 to 2017. Late last year, the state’s Task Force on Elder Abuse made specific recommendations.
Task Force Recommendations on Elder Abuse
The plan from the Attorney General’s Task Force on Elder Abuse includes five key components that encompass legislative protections, additional action from state agencies, and better resources for law enforcement:
- Provide financial advisors and institutions with tools to block suspicious financial transactions to shield seniors from financial abuse
- Provide a universal incident reporting tool for law enforcement to utilize across the state to ensure evidence collection is protected in the event of criminal prosecution
- Increase penalties for those who commit crimes against vulnerable populations, and streamline the legal process for victims seeking protection
- Expedite the hearing process to protect the testimony of victims with declining health
- Add a specialized elder abuse team including a full-time prosecutor, investigators and financial auditor
Late last year, the task force partnered with the Wisconsin Bankers Association, the Wisconsin Credit Union League, and The Department of Justice to produce training materials for bank employees to help spot potential perpetrators of elder financial abuse. According to Rose Oswald Poels, president and CEO of the Wisconsin Bankers Association, “All too often, [it’s] family members that are the perpetrators of these crimes…”
In many cases, victims are reluctant to speak out against their abuser; in some cases, victims may not even be aware a crime has been committed. This is also often true in instances of neglect, emotional cruelty, physical abuse and sexual abuse.
Elder Abuse and Neglect in Wisconsin
According to Wisconsin’s Annual Elder Abuse and Neglect Report, in 2017 almost half of all calls received by elder abuse county help lines were for self-neglect; about 20 percent were reports of financial exploitation, and about 20 percent involved neglect by others, or emotional or physical abuse.
Although mandatory reporting is required for specific professions (e.g., nurses, family therapists, employees of facilities licensed by the Department of Health and Family Services, etc.), everyone should be vigilant in observing common signs of abuse. If you have reasonable belief that neglect, abuse or financial exploitation has occurred, you can—and should—report it.
Those who make reports made in good faith may not be held civilly or criminally liable or found guilty of unprofessional conduct for making a good faith report. If someone you care about demonstrates signs of abuse contact a county agency to file a report, or call the police if the situation is an emergency.
Click here for a county-by-county list of Wisconsin elder abuse help lines.
Justice for Wisconsin Elder Abuse Victims
Making a report is just one step toward seeking justice should neglect or abuse occur. State investigators may uncover evidence that can be used to initiate criminal charges. Unfortunately, a criminal investigation doesn’t always result in conviction.
Wisconsin’s civil justice system offers victims and their families another way to pursue justice and financial compensation for damages. If you suspect a loved one is a victim of neglect, abuse or financial exploitation, it’s a good idea to arrange a consultation with an experienced nursing home abuse attorney.
The Madison lawyers at Boller & Vaughan are dedicated to helping elder abuse victims and their families recover the financial security they need to cope with medical expenses and other damages, and restore their lives. Our attorneys have an extensive record of success in nursing home abuse cases, including some of the largest assisted-living verdicts in Wisconsin history.
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