What is Elder Abuse?

California law defines elders as people aged 65 years or older. Elder abuse is defined as neglect, physical abuse, abandonment, isolation, financial abuse, or any other treatment resulting in harm, pain, or mental suffering to an elder.

In 1991, California passed a law providing additional protections to elders under the care of others. The Elder Abuse and Dependent Adult Civil Protection Act (EADACPA) gives legal recourse for elders who have suffered from abuse or neglect. The civil provisions of the EADACPA define physical abuse as:

  • Assault
  • Battery
  • Unreasonable physical restraint or prolonged or continual deprivation of food or water
  • Sexual assault
  • Use of physical or chemical restraints for punishment, for longer than intended or for an unauthorized purpose.

Neglect is defined as the negligent failure of a caretaker or custodian to exercise the degree of care expected of a reasonable person in their position. It includes failures to:

  • Assist in personal hygiene or in the provision of food, shelter, or clothing
  • Provide medical care for physical and mental health needs
  • Protect from health and safety hazards
  • Prevent malnutrition or dehydration.

How to Recognize Elder Abuse

The telltale signs of elder abuse are frequently missed by healthcare professionals and family members. Victims may be reluctant to report abuse out of fear of retaliation, or because they don’t want to get the perpetrators into trouble. They may be unable to report abuse due to cognitive or physical disabilities.

If you have a loved one in a nursing home, assisted living facility, memory care center, or any other type of Long Term Care facility for seniors, it’s imperative that you know how to recognize the common indicators of abuse and neglect:

  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Agitated, anxious, or violent behavior
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Unexplained bruises, burns, scars, welts, broken bones, or other injury
  • Bed sores or other preventable conditions
  • Malnutrition/dehydration
  • Confusion or disorientation
  • Defensiveness
  • Depression
  • Fear
  • Non-responsiveness
  • Physical or emotional withdrawal.

Physical and mental wellbeing is not the only place to look for signs of elder neglect and abuse. You can also glean information from the behavior of the caregivers. Indicators of caregiver abuse include:

  • An angry or indifferent attitude toward the elder
  • Imposition of social isolation or restricted activity
  • Conflicting accounts between caregivers and other facility staff
  • Speaking on behalf of the elder and restricting their freedom to speak.

If you recognize any of these signs next time you visit your loved one, try talking with them to find out what’s going on. To speak with our office and receive a free case evaluation, call 916-448-6400, or submit a contact form.