What Is Elder Abuse?

Old Man Covering his face

According to the Administration for Community Living (ACL), elder abuse refers to “any knowing, intentional, or negligent act by a caregiver or any other person that causes harm or a serious risk of harm to a vulnerable adult.”

Nursing home residents are especially vulnerable to this type of abuse due to their decreased ability to care for themselves. Additionally, many residents have chronic illnesses that may limit their physical and cognitive functioning. Some residents are unable to report abuse and neglect, and others are fearful that such reporting may lead to retaliation. This is an especially valid concern for dependent residents, who are at the mercy of nursing facility staff for virtually every aspect of their daily existence, including:

  • bedding,
  • hygiene needs,
  • food,
  • medical treatments,
  • and mobility.

While their fears are valid, residents who do speak up have the law on their side.

Elder Abuse Is Against the Law

Federal law explicitly states:

residents have the right to be free from verbal, sexual, physical and mental abuse”

Further, the California legislature recognizes that elders and dependent adults may be “subjected to abuse, neglect, or abandonment and that this state has a responsibility to protect these persons.”

Despite strict laws at the federal and state level, studies show that there are approximately 2.5 million residents in long term nursing and residential care facilities in the United States and that many of these residents have been abused or neglected.

Details on Elder Abuse in California

Anyone who lives in California and is 65 or older is considered an elder by the state.

California civil law defines elder abuse as physical abuse, neglect, abandonment, isolation, abduction, or other treatment resulting in physical harm, pain, or mental suffering to an elder. It can also indicate financial abuse or the deprivation of goods or services by a care custodian.

Definitions for each form of abuse can be found below:

Physical abuse indicates the infliction of physical pain or injury on an elder, the presence of sexual assault or molestation, or the use of physical or chemical restraints in punishing the elder.

Neglect happens when caregivers fail to assist elders with personal hygiene, fail to provide food, clothing, or shelter, and/or fail to protect the elder from health and safety hazards.

Abandonment occurs when a caregiver deserts an elder.

Abduction is when an elder is moved across state lines without their consent.

Isolation occurs when a caregiver prevents an elder from receiving mail, telephone calls or visitors.

Mental suffering involves fear, agitation, or confusion caused by threats, harassment, or other forms of intimidating behavior.

Financial Abuse is the wrongful taking or use of an elder’s funds, property, or assets.

How to Recognize Abuse

Signs of abuse can be demonstrated by the physicality or behavior of your loved one, or by their caretaker themselves.

Physically, you should look for:

  • Bedsores – also referred to as pressure sores or decubitus ulcers
  • Signs of malnutrition and/or dehydration
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Pain triggered by touch
  • Bruises
  • Cuts, lacerations, or tears on the skin
  • Broken bones or teeth

Sometimes, an injury may not be visible on your loved one’s body. That’s why it’s important to monitor their mood, as well.

Behavioral signs of abuse include:

  • Confusion or disorientation
  • Fear and anxiety
  • Anger and defensiveness
  • Depression
  • Hesitation in speech
  • Implausible excuses
  • Non-responsiveness
  • Withdrawal
  • Agitation

Remember: you know your loved one best. If you notice any unusual behaviors or out-of-character mood patterns, you may want to investigate for possible abuse.

Abuse can also be revealed by the behavior of caregivers.

If you notice any of the following trends, act immediately:

  • Your loved one is not given the opportunity to speak for themselves
  • The caregiver displays indifference or anger towards the elder
  • Your loved one is being isolated, or their activity is being restricted
  • The caregiver cannot keep their story straight regarding incidents

Get Help Today

Protecting the elderly from abuse is a real concern, and if your loved one has been victimized, our team at McCune Wright Arevalo, LLP is prepared to aggressively pursue compensation on their behalf.

To learn more about your rights contact us at (909) 345-8110 and schedule a free consultation.

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