Protecting Elders from Abuse and Neglect in California

Elder Abuse and Neglect is a widespread but hidden problem with many cases going unreported, much less brought to justice. It occurs for many reasons but mainly for financial exploitation. It is alarming to discover that most elder abuse incidents happen in nursing homes and recovery facilities – institutions trusted with their health and well-being.

So what can you do to prevent cases of elder abuse from happening?

First, you must stay vigilant with the condition of your elderly relatives, whether they’re confined in a facility or living at home with a caregiver. Second, learn how to recognize their suffering and take action to stop it.

Use this guide to learn the protections afforded by California law to our elderly so you can, if necessary, take legal steps to shield them from being abused and neglected.

What is Elder Abuse Law?

Under California law, elder abuse can be both civil and criminal.

California Civil Law defines elder abuse as physical abuse, neglect, financial abuse, abandonment, isolation, abduction, or other treatment resulting in harm, pain or mental suffering to an elder. It is any intentional or negligent act carried out by a professional caregiver or any other person, including family, that inevitably causes harm to an elderly adult.

California Criminal Law under Penal Code § 368, defines elder abuse when a person knows that the victim is an elder then inflicts unjustifiable physical pain or mental suffering on the elder or willfully causes or permits that elder to suffer. It also covers situations where a person willfully causes or permits an elder to be placed in a situation in which their health is endangered.

What Are The Forms of Elder Abuse?

  • Abandonment: The desertion of an elder by someone who is a caregiver.
  • Abduction: The removal, without the consent of the elder to another state.
  • Financial Abuse: The wrongful taking or use of an elder’s funds, property, or other assets.
  • Isolation: The intentional prevention of an elder from receiving mail, telephone
    calls or visitors.
  • Mental Suffering: The infliction of fear, agitation, or confusion through threats,
    harassment or other forms of intimidating behavior.
  • Neglect: A caregiver’s failure to assist in an elder’s personal hygiene, failure to
    provide food, clothing or shelter, or protect an elder from health and safety hazards.
  • Physical Abuse: The infliction of physical pain or injury, sexual assault or
    molestation, or the use of physical or chemical restraints for punishment.
  • Undue Influence: When a person uses excessive persuasion on an elder that
    overcomes an elder’s free will and causes an elder to act or refrain from acting in an appropriate manner.

How To Recognize Elder Abuse and Neglect?

1. Look for signs of possible physical abuse or neglect

  • Malnutrition and/or dehydration
  • Bedsores
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Bruises, skin tears or broken bones or teeth
  • Painful reactions when touched
  • Deterioration in their hygiene

2. Possible Financial Abuse Indicators:

  • Suspicious banking or financial transactions
  • Money missing from accounts
  • Unusable ATM or Credit Card transactions
  • Unexpected changes to estate planning documents or property deeds
  • Missing possessions

3. Behavioral Indicators

  • Agitation
  • Anger
  • Confusion or disorientation
  • Defensiveness
  • Depressed or withdrawn
  • Fearful or hesitant to talk openly
  • Non-responsive or implausible excuses

4. Caregiver or Family Member Abuse Indicators

  • The elder is not allowed to speak for him/herself.
  • Caregiver’s indifference or anger toward the elder.
  • Socially isolated or unnecessary restrictions of the elder’s activities.
  • Conflicting explanations of incidents by the family or caregivers.
  • Family members or caregivers having gambling or substance abuse problems.

What’s Next?

In case you witness these types of abuse on your elderly loved one and you suspect that they are in urgent physical danger or compromised health, report the violation by a caregiver or nursing home to the police. They will conduct an inquiry and refer the report to the justice system if an offense has been committed.

This resource is not legal advice. To work with lawyers who have expertise in working with these types of elder neglect and abuse cases, schedule a free consultation with our team at Crider Law.

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