April 5, 2024 | Article by Matt Clark

Simply put, elder abuse is the mistreatment of older adults. In California, an older adult is an adult aged 65 and over.

Older adults are often vulnerable because of factors like:

  • Declining health, strength, and mobility
  • Chronic diseases
  • Dementia

They are often dependent on caregivers, such as family members or healthcare providers. Caregivers may be guilty of elder abuse for things they do (e.g., slapping an elderly person) or do not do (e.g., not providing help with personal hygiene).

Elder abuse includes:

  • Physical abuse: Assaulting an elderly person, restraining them without cause by physical means or by drugging them, or failing to provide adequate food and water.
  • Sexual abuse: Engaging in any form of unwanted sexual touching, rape, or lewd acts (e.g., forcing an elderly person to watch pornography).
  • Neglect: Failing to provide reasonable care, such as necessary medical care, help with personal hygiene, or protection from injury.
  • Isolation: Preventing an elderly person’s contact with visitors or withholding their mail or phone calls.
  • Emotional abuse: Engaging in behaviors that harm an older adult’s mental health, such as harassment, verbal abuse, making threats, or intimidation.
  • Financial abuse: Taking an elderly person’s property or funds (e.g., unauthorized use of credit cards) or engaging in other forms of financial exploitation.

Where Does Elder Abuse Occur?

It’s common to associate elder abuse with unscrupulous caregivers in long-term care facilities such as assisted living and nursing homes. But those aren’t the only places where the elderly are susceptible to mistreatment. Abuse may also occur in other healthcare settings (e.g., in a hospital) or private homes.

The U.S. Justice Department reports that 90% of older adults live in the community (i.e., their own homes or apartments), not in long-term care communities. A caregiver mistreating an older adult might be an aide in an assisted living facility—but they could also be a relative harming them in their own home.

Recognizing, Preventing, and Reporting Elder Abuse

If you have elderly relatives, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with common warning signs of elder abuse. For example:

  • A physically abused person may have unexplained cuts, bruises, or broken bones.
  • A sexually abused person may have bruising or bleeding in the genital area.
  • A neglected person may have bedsores, poor hygiene, or be malnourished.
  • An emotionally abused person may be withdrawn or show fear when around their abuser.
  • A financially abused person may be missing large sums of money or unable to access accounts.

The best way to prevent elder abuse is to be aware of the symptoms of abuse and speak up if you suspect that something is wrong:

  • Call 9-1-1 if you believe anyone is in imminent danger.
  • Notify the police if you believe a crime has been committed.
  • To report abuse of older adults or dependent mentally or physically disabled adults living in the community, contact the Adult Protective Services 24-hour hotline: 800-277-7866.
  • To report abuse of older adults in long-term care, contact the Kern County Long-Term Care Ombudsman at 661-323-7884.

Bakersfield Elder Abuse Attorneys

California’s Elder Abuse and Dependent Adult Civil Protection Act (EADACPA) provides special protections for older adults. This includes enhanced criminal penalties for crimes against the elderly and the opportunity to file civil lawsuits against the individuals/entities responsible for the abuse.

If you suspect that a family member is being abused—or if you’re suffering abuse yourself—the experienced elder abuse lawyers at Chain | Cohn | Clark can help. Our attorneys know how to navigate these often complex cases—handling paperwork, investigations, and depositions, finding expert witnesses, and negotiating or arguing your case in court.

Contact us today for a free, no-obligation review of your case.