Elder abuse can be described as destructive behavior against an older person. This conduct occurs in the context of a relationship that denotes trust and the extent to which is capable of causing harmful physical, psychological, social, or economic consequences. These actions result in the loss of basic human rights. Through acts that cause suffering, injury, or mental pain, the quality of life of the older person is severely impaired. Fortunately, the various types of elder abuse are strongly criminalized in both state and federal legislation.
Elder abuse involves people over 65 years of age. As we will see below, all these subjects are potential victims of a wide range of criminal acts that are highly punishable by law. Within these crimes, different types of neglect and mistreatment can be broken down.
In the event that an elderly person suffers injuries as a result of inappropriate behavior in a nursing home, or in a private residence by a caregiver or family member, he or she has the right to take the case to court. Depending on the severity and after-effects, the victim may be entitled to higher or lower compensation. If you or a loved one has been exposed to abuse and neglect, we can help. Discuss your legal options with an experienced Adamson Ahdoot elder abuse attorney today.
What Does California Law Say About Elder Abuse and Harassment?
In the United States alone, there are an estimated five to six million cases of elder abuse. That’s one case every five seconds.
California is one of the states with the strictest elder abuse and neglect laws. To protect this defenseless population group, the Golden State has established legislation that seeks to preserve their constitutional rights. The first legislation was passed in 1982 with the Elder and Dependent Adult Abuse Protection Act. In 1991, new regulations were put in place under Penal Code 368, Welfare and Institutions Code section 15610.07. Based on this, the law aims to protect any person over 65 years of age who: has a physical disability, suffers from mental limitations or handicaps, or suffers from a limitation that restricts his or her activities.
California’s law accepts self-neglect as a form of maltreatment. It occurs when a person is no longer able or willing to care for himself or herself. That is, he or she is unable to meet his or her basic needs. This includes neglecting personal hygiene, health, or the condition of their housing. Basically, we are talking about the impossibility of following a life in accordance with established canons of social and cultural self-care.
Nationally, the country has passed three laws to protect the integrity of the elderly population: the Older Americans Act (OAA) of 1965, the Nursing Home Reform Act of 1987, and the Elder Justice Act of 2010. The latter was the first federal law to expressly combat elder abuse, neglect, and violence.
What Agencies Preserve the Rights of the Elderly?
The primary entity that investigates elder abuse is the California Adult Protective Services (APS). In addition to having a state agency, each county has an APS unit responsible for addressing elder abuse. Not only do they focus on nursing homes, they also inspect cases in private residences, hotels, and hospitals.
The California Department of Aging and the California Attorney General’s Medi-Cal Office of Elder Fraud and Abuse are other options for legal help available.
While not focused exclusively on elder abuse, the California Department of Social Services, the California Department of Justice, and law enforcement are also agencies that combat these problems when a complaint or report comes to them.
In addition, in California, anyone who is a caregiver of the elderly is required to report any possible abuse or neglect. These individuals include nursing home employees, family members, and healthcare providers. Specifically, California delegates “full or intermittent responsibility for the care or custody of an elderly person” to the following persons:
- Administrators, supervisors, and licensed personnel of nursing and healthcare facilities
- Caregivers or guardians of elderly or dependent adults
- Health care personnel
- Law enforcement officers
Possible Penalties and Fines
In order for a perpetrator to be convicted of a crime, they must have committed one of the following violations:
- Injuring elderly or physically or mentally dependent adults
- Having knowledge of unlawful actions that violate human rights and failing to report it
- Allowing the caregiver to whom he/she has delegated the task of guardianship to injure the elderly person
- Endangering the integrity of the person on purpose
In the case of elder abuse, the punishment and penalty for these crimes can vary depending on the severity of the acts. A misdemeanor elder abuse offense could carry up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $6,000. A felony could mean two to four years in prison and a financial penalty of up to $10,000.
Types of Elder Abuse
Anyone over the age of 65 is at risk for some type of abuse. Moreover, the abuser can come from a variety of backgrounds, from a caregiver to a family member. And it can occur in both domestic and institutional settings. But, when we talk about the different types of elder abuse, we can highlight seven forms:
- Physical abuse
- Sexual abuse
- Emotional or psychological abuse
- Isolation or abduction
- Financial abuse
As we will see below, elder abuse is a national problem that especially affects California. At least 10% of the most vulnerable members of our communities will be abused at some time, according to data provided by the U.S. Department of Justice.
Some examples of types of elder abuse are financially related. That is, from stealing cash from a wallet to coercing large transactions. Also included, in addition to theft, are embezzlement, forgery, fraud, or identity theft. In terms of physical or psychological abuse, it can range from neglecting to meet basic needs such as food or drinking water, forcing sexual acts, shouting or insulting, or even hitting or pushing.
If you want to know more about the different forms of abuse and neglect, we explain the different types in depth below.
Physical violence is one of the most common forms of elder abuse. It occurs when someone intentionally uses force on an elderly person for certain reasons. Such abuse includes but is not limited to, hitting, assaulting, pushing, punching, or slapping. Also, any violent physical act that restrains or holds the victim against his or her will. Forcing the person to take drugs or perform a series of actions also falls into this group.
Some of the signs of this abuse are:
- Contusions or bruises
- Broken bones
- Blows to the head
- Superficial wounds or scratches
- Unusual weight loss
Sexual Abuse or Harassment
Any non-consensual or forced sexual contact with an elderly person. Contact not only has to occur, but can also occur if the caregiver forces the elder to witness a sexual act. The most vulnerable groups are those with cognitive disabilities such as dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. Cases such as rape, forced nudity, photography, touching, as well as forced observation of masturbation, or pornography are the most frequent.
Some of the consequences of this behavior are:
- Post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD)
- Sleep disorders
- Bruises or abrasions
- Vaginal or anal bleeding
If the caregiver does not attend to the needs of the elderly person, it is referred to as neglect and/or negligence. These needs may be physical, emotional, or social. In other words, it is a breach of the duty of care. Intentional or unintentional, these are incidents that result in serious injury or illness. Negligence or carelessness for people’s health is often at the root of these cases. For example, failing to provide healthy food or meals, interrupting access to proper medical care, or forgetting medication.
The after-effects of this type of abuse include:
- Dehydration or malnutrition
- Poor personal hygiene
- Dirty or inadequate clothing
- Poor health
- Untreated or poorly cared for infections or injuries
Emotional or Psychological Abuse
When a family member, caregiver, or person responsible for an elder in question uses humiliating or emotionally hurtful words against him or her. This abuse or harassment may be verbal or nonverbal and may involve shouting threats, and put-downs that can be very damaging to mental health. This type of psychological abuse inflicts such pain that it can cause fear, distress, or anxiety.
Among the repercussions of this vexatious conduct are the following:
- Mood swings
- Sad or frightened mood, bordering on depression
- Zero eye contact
- Changes in personality, eating, or sleep
Leaving an elderly person alone also falls into the category of abuse and neglect by caregivers and nursing homes. Neglect occurs when a patient or family member in need of care is voluntarily left alone without finding someone to take his or her place. When an elderly person suffers from neglect, he or she usually has poor hygiene and a frail appearance. The appearance of being lost or confused comes, in many cases, from malnutrition or dehydration.
Many cases of elder abuse originate in nursing homes. In many of these facilities, there is not enough staff to care for all the patients. Abandonment in these places leads to confusion of concepts, since it is not known to what extent neglect differs from abandonment.
Isolation or Abduction
When an individual who has been assigned to care for an elderly person prevents the elderly person from performing certain activities or attending certain appointments. This isolation, also referred to as kidnapping, results in the elder having no contact with other people. He or she is prohibited from calling, visiting, or sending mails/emails.
This crime does not usually result in physical injury, but does result in mental injury. It involves individuals who make illegal use of an elderly person’s financial resources. Although many of them do not know it or do not realize it, others are aware of the situation and have to live with it. An event that psychologically consumes the victims.
Adamson Ahdoot Can Assist You with Your Elder Abuse and Neglect Case
If you or a loved one has had a traumatic experience of abuse by a caregiver or nursing home employee, we can help. With more than 100 years of combined legal experience, our attorneys will work hard to get you the compensation you deserve.
Thanks to our bilingual team, we can serve you in both Spanish and English. We are available 24/7 to offer you a free consultation and provide you with more details about your case. If you do not know your legal options and would like more information about possible injury compensation in an elder abuse case, call us today at (800) 310-1606.