Elder Abuse is a widespread but hidden problem where, for every abuse reported, as many as 24 others go unreported. For elder financial exploitation, the ratio of unreported cases is estimated at an alarming 44:1 !
What is Elder Abuse?
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 any 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 the elder to be placed in a situation in which elder’s health is endangered. (Penal Code Section 368)
Civil law defines civil elder abuse to mean physical abuse, neglect, financial abuse, abandonment, isolation, abduction, or other treatment resulting in physical harm or pain or mental suffering. It also means the deprivation by a care custodian of goods or services that are necessary to avoid physical harm or mental suffering. (Welfare & Institutions Code Section 15610.07)
- Physical Abuse: The infliction of physical pain or injury, sexual assault or molestation, or use of physical or chemical restraints for punishment without, or beyond, the scope of a doctor’s order.
- Neglect: The failure to fulfill a caretaking obligation such as assisting in personal hygiene, providing food, clothing or shelter, protecting a person from health and safety hazards, or preventing malnutrition.
- Financial Abuse: The illegal or unethical exploitation and/or use of an elder’s funds, property, or other assets.
- 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.
- Isolation: The intentional preventing 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.
How to Recognize Abuse
Possible Physical Abuse Indicators: The following are clues for recognizing signs of physical elder abuse. It is not intended to be exhaustive.
- Unexplained weight loss, malnutrition and/or dehydration.
- Physical injury: Areas painful on touching, fractures or broken bones.
- Bruises and Skin Damage:
- Bruises on the inner arm or thigh;
- Bruises with shape similar to an object or thumb/finger prints (oval markings from fingers);
- The presence of old and new bruises in the same place as from repeated injury or injuries in different stages of healing;
- Clustered marks as from repeated striking; bilaterally on soft parts of body, not over bony parts (knee & elbows)
- Scratches, cuts, pinch marks, choke marks, burns, welts, gag marks, sprains, punctures, bedsores, or fractures.
- Hesitation to talk openly
- Implausible stories
- Confusion or disorientation
Possible Relationship Abuse Indicators
- The elder may not be given the opportunity to speak for him/herself
- Obvious absence of assistance, attitudes of indifference, or anger toward the elder by family member or caregiver
- Social isolation or restriction of activity of the elder
- Conflicting accounts of incidents by the family or caregivers
- Substance abuse by individual responsible for the care of the elder
What to Do About Known or Suspected Elder Abuse?
When you know about or even suspect Elder Abuse, REPORT IT – There is no excuse for Elder Abuse! Call Adult Protecitve Services at (707) 565-5940.
In cases where the elder is at risk of immediate harm, CALL 911!
National Center for Elder Abuse Website link
Concerned citizens and mandated reporters.
Who Are Mandated Reporters?
Administrators, supervisors, and any licensed staff of a public or private facility that provides care or services for elder; any elder or dependent adult care custodian, health practitioner, clergy member, or employee of a county adult protective services agency or a local law enforcement agency; any person who has assumed full or intermittent responsibility for the care or custody of an elder, whether or not he or she receives compensation.
What is Reported?
Mandated reporters MUST report actual or suspected physical abuse, abandonment, isolation, financial abuse, or neglect which is observed, evident, or described.
Form SOC 341 must be completed and signed by the mandated reporter.
When to Report?
Immediately or as soon as possible by telephone, followed by a written report within two (2) working days.
Failure to Report
Failure to report, impeding or inhibiting a report of, physical abuse, abandonment, abduction, isolation, financial abuse, or neglect of an elder is a misdemeanor, punishable by six months in the county jail and a fine of one thousand dollars ($1,000).
Any mandated reporter who willfully fails to report physical abuse, abandonment, abduction, isolation, financial abuse, or neglect of an elder where that abuse results in death or great bodily injury, shall be punished by not more than one year in a county jail and a fine of five thousand dollars ($5,000).
Where to Report
Where to Report
If you witness a case of elder abuse in a Long Term Care Facility (Skilled Nursing Facility or Residential Care Facility for the Elderly), call the Sonoma County Ombudsman Program at (707) 526-4108 or the Ombudsman Crisis Line (800) 231-4024.
If you witness a case of elder abuse in the community, call Adult Protective Services at (707) 565-5940 or (800) 667-0404.