Elder Abuse can take many forms including physical abuse or financial abuse. Elder abuse may be defined as any type of physical, psychological, or sexual abuse committed against a senior citizen. In extreme cases it can cause death. It is often committed by someone who oversees caring or provides some service to the elderly person. In the United States alone, more than half a million reports of elder abuse reach authorities every year, and many cases go unreported.
Abuse of the elderly can take place in institutional settings, particularly long-term care centers, nursing homes, and skilled nursing centers. Often in these settings, elders are harmed when loved ones are not around, which is a thinly veiled attempt at covering up such treatment. Elders can also be abused at home by family members, such as by spouses or adult children.
Abuse can be difficult to spot, such a long-term contract a slick salesperson coerced a elder to enter into. A banker tying up all the assets of an elder into a annuity or other investment vehicle in violation of various standards. Unscrupulous professional investors selling inappropriate, unethical, or confusing investment products to seniors.
Signs of Physical Elder Abuse
Several of the signs of abuse can mimic signs and symptoms of depression and or advanced symptoms of Alzheimer’s. When assessing your loved one, be sure to take all of his/her symptoms and any diagnoses into consideration before jumping to any conclusions about neglect or abuse. No one wants to assume abuse, but at the same time no one should ignore warning signs either.
Signs of neglect or abuse in the elderly include;
- Sudden and unexplained weight loss
- Signs of trauma (like agitation, or rocking back and forth)
- Difficulty sleeping
- Violent behavior (particularly if sudden onset)
- Unexplained bruising or injuries
- Becomes withdrawn and/or suddenly stops participating in activities
- Appearance is disheveled
- Dirty environment-unwashed clothes or bedsheets (when caregiver has been assigned these duties)
- Flinching when people come near
- Bedsores, skin breakdown, or other types of preventable conditions
Signs of Financial Elder Abuse
Several of the signs of abuse can include:
- Sudden changes in payment of bills
- Unexplained secrecy with bank accounts
- Sudden lack of access to financial accounts
- A “new” best friend
Tips for Seniors to protect against Elder Abuse:
What should you do to protect yourself?
- Plan ahead to protect your assets and to ensure your wishes are followed. Talk to someone at your financial institution, an attorney, or financial advisor about the best options for you.
- Shred receipts, bank statements and unused credit card offers before throwing them away.
- Carefully choose a trustworthy person to act as your agent in all estate-planning matters.
- Lock up your checkbook, account statements and other sensitive information when others will be in your home.
- Order copies of your credit report once a year to ensure accuracy.
- Never give personal information, including Social Security Number, account number or other financial information to anyone over the phone unless you initiated the call and the other party is trusted.
- Never pay a fee or taxes to collect sweepstakes or lottery “winnings.”
- Never rush into a financial decision. Ask for details in writing and take a breath and speak to your loved ones before executing any contracts.
- Consult with a financial advisor or attorney before signing any document you don’t understand.
- Get to know your banker and build a relationship with the people who handle your finances. They can look out for any suspicious activity related to your account.
- Check references and credentials before hiring anyone. This is very important for anyone just “knocking on your door” seeking to provide you a service.
- Pay with checks and credit cards instead of cash to keep a paper trail.
- Feel free to say “no.” After all, it’s your money. Don’t be afraid to say no or to seek advice before entering into any contracts.
- You have the right not to be threatened or intimidated. If you think someone close to you is trying to take control of your finances without your consent, call your local Adult Protective Services or seek legal advice. You can even tell your banker.
- Trust your instincts. Exploiters and abusers often are very skilled. They can be charming and forceful in their effort to convince you to give up control of your finances. Don’t be fooled—if something doesn’t feel right, it may not be right. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
If you know someone that has been the victim of Elder Abuse, please gather all applicable documents and contact our office to discuss.
Applicable Legal Standards:
Welfare & Institutions Code § 15610.63. Physical abuse
“Physical abuse” means any of the following:
- Assault, as defined in Section 240 of the Penal Code.
- Battery, as defined in Section 242 of the Penal Code.
- Assault with a deadly weapon or force likely to produce great bodily injury, as defined in Section 245 of the Penal Code.
- Unreasonable physical constraint, or prolonged or continual deprivation of food or water.
- Sexual assault, that means any of the following:
- Sexual battery, as defined in Section 243.4 of the Penal Code.
- Rape, as defined in Section 261 of the Penal Code.
- Rape in concert, as described in Section 264.1 of the Penal Code.
- Spousal rape, as defined in Section 262 of the Penal Code.
- Incest, as defined in Section 285 of the Penal Code.
- Sodomy, as defined in Section 286 of the Penal Code.
- Oral copulation, as defined in Section 288a of the Penal Code.
- Sexual penetration, as defined in Section 289 of the Penal Code.
- Lewd or lascivious acts as defined in paragraph (2) of subdivision (b) of Section 288 of the Penal Code.
- Use of a physical or chemical restraint or psychotropic medication under any of the following conditions:
- For punishment.
- For a period beyond that for which the medication was ordered pursuant to the instructions of a physician and surgeon licensed in the State of California, who is providing medical care to the elder or dependent adult at the time the instructions are given.
- For any purpose not authorized by the physician and surgeon.
Welfare & Institutions Code § 15610.07. Abuse of an elder or a dependent adult
(a) “Abuse of an elder or a dependent adult” means any of the following:
(1) Physical abuse, neglect, abandonment, isolation, abduction, or other treatment with resulting physical harm or pain or mental suffering.
(2) The deprivation by a care custodian of goods or services that are necessary to avoid physical harm or mental suffering.
(3) Financial abuse
Welfare & Institutions Code § 15610.05. Abandonment
“Abandonment” means the desertion or willful forsaking of an elder or a dependent adult by anyone having care or custody of that person under circumstances in which a reasonable person would continue to provide care and custody.
Welfare & Institutions Code § 15610.06. Abduction
“Abduction” means the removal from this state and the restraint from returning to this state, or the restraint from returning to this state, of any elder or dependent adult who does not have the capacity to consent to the removal from this state and the restraint from returning to this state, or the restraint from returning to this state, as well as the removal from this state or the restraint from returning to this state, of any conservatee without the consent of the conservator or the court.
Welfare & Institutions Code § 15610.30. Financial Abuse
- “Financial abuse” of an elder or dependent adult occurs when a person or entity does any of the following:
- Takes, secretes, appropriates, obtains, or retains real or personal property of an elder or dependent adult for a wrongful use or with intent to defraud, or both.
- Assists in taking, secreting, appropriating, obtaining, or retaining real or personal property of an elder or dependent adult for a wrongful use or with intent to defraud, or both.
- Takes, secretes, appropriates, obtains, or retains, or assists in taking, secreting, appropriating, obtaining, or retaining, real or personal property of an elder or dependent adult by undue influence, as defined in section 15610.70.
- A person or entity shall be deemed to have taken, secreted, appropriated, obtained, or retained property for a wrongful use if, among other things, the person or entity takes, secretes, appropriates, obtains, or retains the property and the person or entity knew or should have known that this conduct is likely to be harmful to the elder or dependent adult.
- For purposes of this section, a person or entity takes, secretes, appropriates, obtains, or retains real or personal property when an elder or dependent adult is deprived of any property right, including by means of an agreement, donative transfer, or testamentary bequest, regardless of whether the property is held directly or by a representative of an elder or dependent adult.
- For purposes of this section, “representative” means a person or entity that is either of the following:
- A conservator, trustee, or other representative of the estate of an elder or dependent adult.
- An attorney-in-fact of an elder or dependent adult who acts within the authority of the power of attorney.
Welfare & Institutions Code § 15610.43. Isolation
- “Isolation” means any of the following:
- Acts intentionally committed for the purpose of preventing, and that do serve to prevent, an elder or dependent adult from receiving his or her mail or telephone calls.
- Telling a caller or prospective visitor that an elder or dependent adult is not present, or does not wish to talk with the caller, or does not wish to meet with the visitor where the statement is false, is contrary to the express wishes of the elder or the dependent adult, whether he or she is competent or not, and is made for the purpose of preventing the elder or dependent adult from having contact with family, friends, or concerned persons.
- False imprisonment, as defined in Section 236 of the Penal Code.
- Physical restraint of an elder or dependent adult, for the purpose of preventing the elder or dependent adult from meeting with visitors.
- The acts set forth in subdivision (a) shall be subject to a rebuttable presumption that they do not constitute isolation if they are performed pursuant to the instructions of a physician and surgeon licensed to practice medicine in the state, who is caring for the elder or dependent adult at the time the instructions are given, and who gives the instructions as part of his or her medical care.
- The acts set forth in subdivision (a) shall not constitute isolation if they are performed in response to a reasonably perceived threat of danger to property or physical safety.
Welfare & Institutions Code § 15610.53. Mental suffering
“Mental suffering” means fear, agitation, confusion, severe depression, or other forms of serious emotional distress that is brought about by forms of intimidating behavior, threats, harassment, or by deceptive acts performed or false or misleading statements made with malicious intent to agitate, confuse, frighten, or cause severe depression or serious emotional distress of the elder or dependent adult.
Welfare & Institutions Code § 15610.57. Neglect
- “Neglect” means either of the following:
- The negligent failure of any person having the care or custody of an elder or a dependent adult to exercise that degree of care that a reasonable person in a like position would exercise.
- The negligent failure of an elder or dependent adult to exercise that degree of self care that a reasonable person in a like position would exercise.
- Neglect includes, but is not limited to, all of the following:
- Failure to assist in personal hygiene, or in the provision of food, clothing, or shelter.
- Failure to provide medical care for physical and mental health needs. No person shall be deemed neglected or abused for the sole reason that he or she voluntarily relies on treatment by spiritual means through prayer alone in lieu of medical treatment.
- Failure to protect from health and safety hazards.
- Failure to prevent malnutrition or dehydration.
- Failure of an elder or dependent adult to satisfy the needs specified in paragraphs (1) to (4), inclusive, for himself or herself as a result of poor cognitive functioning, mental limitation, substance abuse, or chronic poor health.