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In California, elders are defined as persons 65 years and older. Under California law, elder abuse can be both criminal and civil.

Criminal elder abuse occurs where any person who knows that a person is an elder and willfully causes or permits that elder to suffer, or inflicts unjustifiable physical pain or mental suffering on the elder. It also covers situations where a person willfully causes or permits an elder to be placed in a situation in which elder’s health is endangered.  

Civil law elder abuse means physical abuse, neglect, financial abuse, abandonment, isolation, abduction, or other treatment resulting in physical harm or pain or mental suffering to an elder. It also means the deprivation by a care custodian of goods or services that are necessary to avoid physical harm or mental suffering.

Examples of Elder Abuse:

  • Abandonment: The desertion of an elder by someone who is a caregiver.
  • Abduction: The removal, without the consent of the conservator, of a conservatee to another state.
  • Financial Abuse: The illegal or unethical exploitation and/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, confusion through threats, harassment or other forms of intimidating behavior.
  • Neglect: The failure to fulfill a caretaking obligation such as assisting in personal hygiene, providing food, clothing or shelter, protecting an elder from health and safety hazards, or preventing malnutrition.
  • Physical Abuse:The infliction of physical pain or injury, sexual assault or molestation, or use of physical or chemical restraints for punishment.

How to Recognize Elder Abuse

1. Possible Physical Abuse and Neglect Indicators: The following are some clues for recognizing signs of physical elder abuse.

  • Unexplained weight loss, malnutrition and/or dehydration, bedsores.
  • Unseen physical injury: Painful reaction when touched.
  • Bruises, skin damage or broken bones.

2. Behavioral Indicators can include:

  • Agitation
  • Anger
  • Anxiety
  • Confusion or disorientation
  • Defensiveness
  • Depression
  • Fear
  • Helplessness
  • Hesitation to talk openly
  • Implausible stories
  • Non responsiveness
  • Withdrawal

3. Possible Relative or Caregiver Abuse Indicators:

  • An elder may not be given the opportunity to speak for themself.
  • Obvious absence of assistance, attitudes of indifference, or anger toward an elder by a family member or caregiver.
  • Social isolation or restriction of activity of an elder.
  • Conflicting accounts of incidents by the family or caregivers.
  • Substance abuse by individual responsible for the care of an elder.

When you know about or even suspect Elder Abuse, REPORT IT. In cases where an elder is at risk of immediate harm, CALL 911!