FAQ : Elder Abuse

Elder Abuse

What is elder abuse?

Elder abuse is mistreatment of an elder by a caregiver, care facility, doctor, nurse, or hospital. It can include physical abuse (such as assault, inappropriate use of restraints, or over-medication), neglect (failure to provide needed nutrition, fluids, hygiene, or medical care), sexual abuse, and financial abuse (using the elder’s financial resources for purposes other than his or her care).

What are the signs of elder physical abuse or neglect?

Different forms of elder abuse have different symptoms. Here are some signs to watch out for:

  • Unexplained injuries
  • Signs of being restrained (such as bruises, marks on wrists)
  • Significant change in demeanor (i.e., due to psychotropic drugs)
  • Bed sores
  • Significant weight loss
  • Signs of dehydration, such as chronic thirst, dry flaky skin, confusion
  • Unsanitary conditions, such as being left in soiled sheets
  • Poor hygiene (e.g., insufficient bathing, foul body odor, or lack of dental care)
  • Signs of fear or withdrawal

What are the signs of financial elder abuse?

Financial elder abuse can be perpetrated by strangers (such as unscrupulous home improvement contractors) or by close family or friends. Sometimes, a caregiver gains access to the elder’s finances and, over time, influences the elder to give them money and to rewrite wills, deeds, and insurance policies to the caregiver’s benefit. As a family member, you can help by talking with the elder about his or her financial arrangements and, if feasible, reviewing the elder’s financial statements. Be alert for the following:

  • Significant withdrawals from the elder’s accounts
  • Suspicious changes in wills, powers of attorney, titles and policies
  • Items or cash missing from the elder’s household
  • Transactions the elder could not have performed (such as ATM withdrawals from the account of a house-bound elder)

What should I do if I believe an elder is being abused or neglected?

For abuse that is ongoing, your immediate priority is to stop the abuse and ensure that the elder is in a safe situation. Get your loved one out of harm’s way. You should begin by contacting one of the government agencies listed in the section below.

After abuse has occurred, if an elder has been seriously injured by the abuse, consider whether you should meet with an attorney to discuss the elder’s (or family’s) legal rights. It is important that caregivers and long-term care facilities be held accountable for failing to provide competent, compassionate care.

Are there public or government resources that will investigate elder abuse?

To report abuse that occurs in a long-term care facility, you should call the local Long-Term Care Ombudsman. For Sacramento County, the telephone number is (916) 376-8910, or you can call the Ombudsman Crisis line at (800) 231-4024. To report abuse that occurs in the elder’s home, call the county Adult Protective Services (APS) agency. The phone number for the Sacramento APS is (916) 874-9377. For more information on reporting elder abuse (and additional phone numbers for counties other than Sacramento), the Department of Justice’s informative pamphlet “Citizen’s Guide to Elder Abuse” is accessible here.

What remedies does California law provide if an elder has been injured by negligence or abuse?

The California legislature has recognized that elders are particularly vulnerable to physical abuse, neglect, and financial abuse. To encourage elders (or their families) to redress such harm, the legislature has enacted special elder abuse laws.

If you believe your elderly family member has been mistreated and want to help make a difference in our firm’s efforts to improve care for elders and dependent adults, please contact us at (916) 444-9323.