As many as one in seven seniors nationwide experiences elder abuse--usually at the hands of a family member. Some wind up bruised and battered, or dehydrated and neglected in their own beds. Others end up penniless, victims of a relative's greed. Some even lose their homes. Yet most elder abuse still goes unreported. Your caregiver may be stealing from you, beating you or simply leaving you stranded in your own room. You may be afraid of what will happen if you tell someone. But help is available. Turn your situation around before it gets worse.
It is the neglect, exploitation or "painful or harmful" mistreatment of anyone who is 65 or older (or who falls under the legal definition of a "dependent" adult aged 18-64). It might be physical violence, psychological abuse, isolation or a caregiver's neglect. It could be identity theft (see Avoiding Consumer Scams), or the theft or embezzlement of a senior's property. (PC § 368; WIC §§ 15610.23, 15610.27)
In short, elder abuse involves various crimes, such as theft, that can strike younger victims as well. However, criminals face stiffer penalties when their victims are 65 years old or older.
If you suspect abuse or exploitation is occurring in your friend's home, call your local Adult Protective Services (APS) agency. (Check your county phone listings or ask your Area Agency on Aging for the number.) Your report will be confidential and you can remain anonymous. If you suspect abuse in a licensed long-term care facility, such as an assisted living or nursing home, contact your local long-term care Ombudsman at 800-231-4024. (WIC §§ 9700 et seq, 15631) You can also contact local law enforcement. (WIC §15631)
To report elder abuse of any kind, call the state Office of the Attorney General's Bureau of Medi-Cal Fraud and Elder Abuse Hotline at 800-722-0432 or your local district attorney's office.
For more information, order a complimentary copy of the State Bar pamphlet What Should I Know About Elder Abuse? (see Resources). You could also order A Citizen's Guide to Preventing & Reporting Elder Abuse, produced by the state Attorney General's office. For a free copy of this guide, write to: The Office of the Attorney General, 1425 River Park Dr., Suite 300, Sacramento, CA 95815. Visit www.oag.ca.gov for an online version (go to Publications and Elder Abuse).
Yes, if you are responsible--with or without pay--for taking care of an elder or dependent adult. Other mandated reporters include: administrators, supervisors and licensed staff of facilities providing care and services to the elderly; Adult Protective Services employees; physicians; police officers; and clergymen. If a mandated reporter fails to report suspected abuse, he or she could be charged with a misdemeanor. (WIC § 15630) In addition, financial institution employees must report any suspected financial abuse of elders as well--or risk facing civil penalties.
Yes. If you are worried about a parent or elderly loved one who lives in another community, you can contact the local law enforcement agency in his or her community and request a well-being check.
It depends on the abuse. But if you are being mistreated in any way, you need help, and your child needs help as well. Call your local Adult Protective Services office and explain your situation. An APS social worker can meet with you privately and help ensure that you are safe. (WIC § 15762)
No, and different laws apply to each as well. The law defines domestic violence as certain kinds of abuse directed toward a spouse or former spouse, domestic partner or former domestic partner, cohabitant or person of any age with whom the abuser has had a "dating or engagement relationship," has had a child or is related by blood or marriage. (FC §§ 6200 et seq; PC § 13700(b)) Such violence is behavior driven by a need to control. It can range from threats to unwanted sexual touching and hitting, and it cuts across all cultures, ethnic back grounds, education levels and income brackets. If a victim of domestic violence is age 65 or older, however, the case may be handled as elder abuse.
If you are in immediate danger, call 911. When the police arrive, explain what happened. In both elder abuse and domestic violence cases, the officers can contact an on-call judicial officer and issue you an Emergency Protective Order (also called an EPO) immediately. This legally prohibits the abuser from coming near you. Emergency orders can also apply to any other named members of the household.) The EPO will remain in effect for five court days or seven calendar days. You could also seek a Temporary Restraining Order (called a TRO). Just fill out the forms at your local court. A TRO goes into effect when it is signed by a judge and delivered to the abuser. It may be made "permanent," which means it will be good for up to five years and can be renewed. (WIC § 15657.03; FC § 6250(d); CCP § 527)
Although a restraining order may help protect you, it does not eliminate the risk of future violence. Restraining orders also may be obtained in elder abuse cases in which a senior has suffered physically or mentally from financial abuse or neglect.
In cases of domestic violence, state law allows victims to keep their addresses confidential through the state's Safe at Home program. This means that your home address need not appear on court papers or other official documents. For more information, call 877-322-5227. And to locate a local shelter or counseling, call the National Domestic Violence 24-hour hotline at 800-799-7233 (800-787-3224 for TTY). Another resource is the State Bar pamphlet Can the Law Help Protect Me from Domestic Violence? (To order a copy, see Resources for contact information.)
(WIC § 15610.05)
(PC §§ 236, 368(f))
For examples of some types of financial abuse, see Avoiding Consumer Scams.(WIC § 15610.30)
(WIC § 15610.43)
(WIC § 15610.57)
This includes the unauthorized use of chemical restraint or psychotropic medication. (WIC § 15610.63)
(WIC § 15610.53)
To next section Avoiding Consumer Scams. Or back to Table of Contents.