Our elderly community matters. Every senior citizen deserves to be treated with the utmost respect and dignity. Unfortunately, however, elders do not always receive the compassionate care they should. In some cases, this could amount to what’s known as elder abuse.  

Below, our attorneys explain what elder abuse is in California. We cover how to prove elder abuse and what legal rights you may have. However, if you suspect alleged abuse, you should contact our team for a free case evaluation.

What Is Elder Abuse?

California elderly abuse law defines elder abuse in the Welfare and Institutions Code. Specifically, we can find the definition in the Elder Abuse and Dependent Adult Civil Protection Act.  

Under this Act, elder abuse means acting in a way that causes an elder mental suffering or physical harm. It can be a deliberate or negligent (meaning careless) act, or failure to act. Examples include: 

  • Isolation 
  • Abduction 
  • Neglect 
  • Deprivation 

For the purposes of the Act, an elder is anyone aged 65 or over.

Types of Elder Abuse

“Elder abuse” can mean many things. In California, abuse of a dependent adult includes financial, physical, and emotional abuse. Let’s consider what such abuse might look like.

Financial Abuse

Financial abuse is wrongfully using, taking, or retaining an elder’s property. This could be real or personal property, including homes, land, valuables, and cash. What matters is that it belongs to the elder and the wrongdoer acts deliberately.

Legal textbook with elder abuse dependent adult abuse in light font

Examples include using a credit card without permission or influencing a vulnerable elder into changing their will.

Emotional Abuse

Emotional abuse means causing an elder distress, shame, fear, or anxiety. There may also be attempts to deliberately confuse or intimidate the victim for the wrongdoer’s own purposes.  

Examples include ridiculing an elderly person, mocking them, threatening them, or unduly influencing them to behave a certain way.

Physical Abuse

Elderly physical abuse means inflicting injury, harm, or pain on an elderly person. It can be physical contact, such as punching or hitting, but it can also involve the use of restraints or chemicals.

Sexual Abuse

Sexual abuse of an elder includes any unwanted physical touching or contact. They may be forced to watch pornography or view sexual material. Or they may be influenced into forced nudity.  

And, often, when we’re dealing with elderly individuals, they lack the mental capacity to consent to sexual contact. Taking advantage of someone who cannot consent is a particularly serious form of sexual abuse.

Elder Neglect

Neglect is a type of elder abuse in California. However, unlike other forms of abuse, it’s not always intentional. Instead, it’s when a caregiver, or facility, fails to treat an elder person with the expected level of care and skill. Examples include: 

  • Failing to monitor the person 
  • Lack of amenities e.g. clothing, bedding 
  • Failing to provide medication or other essentials 
  • Careless moving and handling e.g. from a bed into a wheelchair 

No matter how it manifests, elder abuse is serious. If you suspect abuse, contact our attorneys for elder abuse in California today.

Consequences of Elder Abuse

The physical, mental, and financial consequences of elder abuse can be heartbreaking. Below are just some of the possible side effects of elder abuse and neglect in California.

Physical Impact

Physical injuries include serious bodily harm or death. But any injury can lead to long-term consequences.  

Physically, elderly people may take longer to recover from injuries. They may also struggle to regain their independence or have confidence in their physical abilities. Some may be reluctant to engage in therapy or rehab, especially if they’re socially withdrawn.

Emotional Impact

Elder abuse victims may be traumatized by what has happened. They could be frightened, angry, and upset, and struggle to trust their caregivers. They might also feel ashamed of what happened and be reluctant to tell family members the truth.  

Worryingly, emotional abuse could lead to cognitive decline and reduced mental engagement. This could affect the person’s independence and quality of life.

Financial Impact

An elderly person could lose their whole life savings and other property. In other words, they could lose everything they’ve worked so hard for.  

They may lose confidence in their ability to manage their finances. And they may be unable to pay their bills, such as utility bills.

How to Spot Elder Abuse in California

It’s not always easy to spot alleged abuse. However, there are warning signs, or “red flags”, to look out for.

Behavioral Changes

  • New confusion or disorientation without explanation 
  • More aggressive or “on edge” than usual 
  • Increased anxiety and nervousness 
  • Reluctance to talk, seemingly wary  
  • Loss of interest in life and usual hobbies

Physical Changes

  • Unsatisfactory explanation for injuries 
  • Recurring injuries 
  • Increasing weakness without explanation  
  • Unexplained weight loss or fatigue  
  • Unexplained cuts, bruises, and markings 
  • Lack of investigation into serious injuries e.g. broken bones from a fall

Social or Emotional Withdrawal

  • Reluctance to socialize 
  • Withdraws from usual weekly or daily activities 
  • Quieter than usual 
  • More tearful or anxious than usual

Financial and Property Concerns

  • Property, such as cash, goes missing without reasonable explanation 
  • Lack of essentials such as medicine, personal items, or clothing  
  • Unexplained missing money or credit cards 
  • Missing financial paperwork  
  • Unexpected names added to important documents e.g. wills

Lack of Caregiver Support

  • Reluctance to discuss the person’s care plan 
  • Unable to reach the carer e.g. they’re always too busy to talk or return calls 
  • Inability to answer questions 
  • Unsatisfactory, vague communication 
  • Signs of aggression or impatience toward the elder person

Is Elder Abuse a Criminal or Civil Matter in California?

In California, elder abuse can be a criminal or civil matter.

Criminal Charges

Criminal charges for elder abuse offenses can be brought under the California Penal Code 368. It’s a felony or misdemeanor, depending on the charges. Punishments range from fines to jail time.

Civil Case for Elder Abuse

The California Welfare and Institutions Code allows elders to bring claims against their caregivers for alleged abuse. If successful, claimants will receive compensation, or damages, for their financial losses, emotional harm, and physical injuries.

How to Prove Elder Abuse in California

As with any legal claim, proving elder abuse is not without its challenges. To make a successful claim, you must show that: 

  • The victim was aged 65 or over at the time of the alleged abuse;  
  • The alleged abuser was a caregiver, relative, or someone with a fiduciary duty towards the victim e.g. a trustee;  
  • The individual abused or neglected the victim; and  
  • The victim suffered harm.  

It’s not always easy to show that an alleged abuser truly had care or custody over the victim.  

For example, even if the victim is in a nursing home, this may not be sufficient to hold the home responsible for the abuse. In neglect claims, there must be a clear element of negligence, or carelessness, to file a claim. 

Our team can explain who might be responsible for elder abuse in your case.

Statute of Limitations

Typically, you only have two years from the injury date to file a civil action for elder abuse. This may seem like plenty of time, but the longer you wait, the harder it is to preserve evidence.  

Contact our elder abuse attorneys as soon as possible if you suspect elder abuse.

How to Make an Elderly Abuse Report in California

In CA, you should report suspected abuse to your local County Adult Protective Services (APS) agency. The agency will investigate all allegations and determine the best course of action.  

Should you report the incident without consulting an attorney? You can – there’s no legal obligation to hire a lawyer. However, it’s often best to consider involving an attorney at the earliest possible stage. This ensures that you present the most compelling case and the strongest evidence available.  

Are you unsure where to report elderly abuse in California? We can help. The May Firm will help you contact your local APS agency and instigate the investigations. We’ll also ensure you understand what to expect at each stage of the process.

Why You Need an Elder Abuse Lawyer

California elder abuse cases are challenging. To give your loved ones the support they deserve, it’s best to hire an experienced elder abuse attorney. Here’s why.  

  • California elder abuse laws are complex. An attorney understands how to interpret the law and apply it to your specific case.  
  • There may be civil and criminal proceedings running simultaneously. Your attorney will ensure you understand how the process works and how the claims affect each other. 
  • It’s not always clear who to sue, or how much your claim is worth. However, an elder abuse attorney knows how to identify the relevant wrongdoers and seek a fair amount of compensation. 
  • Dealing with elder abuse and neglect is emotionally overwhelming. A lawyer will handle the legal matters so there’s one less issue for you to worry about.  

Our team feels personally invested in our California elderly community. We care deeply about their welfare – let us support your loved ones today.

Contact Our California Elder Abuse Attorneys 

Every person should be treated with respect. Our elders are no exception. If you’re concerned about elder abuse in California, we want to help.

Young caregiver holding elder persons hand in care setting

At the May Firm, we treat clients like family members. We will pursue justice for your loved ones with grit, passion, and determination. We will show your elderly and dependent family members the compassion they deserve. And we will fight to secure a fair outcome on their behalf. 

Our elder abuse attorneys are here for you, even if you just suspect elder abuse but you don’t have clear proof. We will evaluate the facts and, if we think you have a claim, we’ll explain the legal options.  

We believe that the path to justice should be accessible to all. That’s why we work on a contingency fee basis. Our elder abuse attorneys don’t charge anything unless we win your case, and all first meetings are free.  

Give your loved ones the support they deserve. Contact the May Firm elder abuse attorneys to arrange your free consultation.  

Disclaimer: The content in this article is provided for general informational purposes only and may not represent the current law in the recipient’s jurisdiction. The article should not be interpreted as professional legal advice from The May Firm or the individual author, nor is the information intended to substitute for legal counsel on any subject matter. The article, nor any of the information included, should not be used to act or refrain from acting without seeking the appropriate legal or other professional advice from a lawyer licensed in the recipient’s jurisdiction. Any reliance you place on such information is strictly at your own risk.