Elder Abuse Law

Every year, millions of elderly Americans suffer abuse at the hands of relatives, friends, caretakers, scam artists or other people they trust, yet less than 20% of this abuse is reported to the authorities.

We are dedicated to helping elders and their loved ones who have been the victims of intentional or negligent abuse — whether the abuse is physical, emotional or financial.

Seven categories of elder abuse have been described by the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA), formerly the National Aging Resource Center on Elder Abuse. Categories include the following:

  1. Physical abuse is defined as any act of violence that causes pain, injury, impairment, or disease, including striking, pushing, force-feeding, and improper use of physical restraints or medication.
  2. Psychological or emotional abuse is conduct that causes mental anguish. Examples include threats, verbal or nonverbal insults, isolation, and humiliation. Some legal definitions require identification of at least 10 episodes of this type of behavior within a single year to constitute abuse.
  3. Financial abuse is misuse of an elderly person’s money or assets for personal gain. Acts such as stealing (eg, money, social security checks, possessions) or coercion (eg, changing a will, assuming power of attorney) constitute financial abuse.
  4. Neglect is the failure of a caretaker to provide for the patient’s basic needs. As in the previous examples of abuse, neglect can be physical, emotional, or financial. Physical neglect is failure to provide eyeglasses or dentures, preventive health care, safety precautions, or hygiene. Emotional neglect includes failure to provide social stimulation (eg, leaving an older person alone for extended periods). Financial neglect involves failure to use the resources available to restore or maintain the well-being of the aging adult.
  5. Sexual abuse is defined as nonconsensual intimate contact or exposure or any similar activity when the patient is incapable of giving consent. Family members, friends, institutional employees, and fellow patients can commit sexual abuse.
  6. Self-neglect is behavior in which seniors compromise their own health and safety, as when an aging adult refuses needed help with various daily activities. When the patient is deemed competent, many ethical questions arise regarding the patient’s right of autonomy and the physician’s oath of beneficence.
  7. The miscellaneous category includes all other types of abuse, including violation of personal rights (eg, failing to respect the aging person’s dignity and autonomy), medical abuse, and abandonment.

In California, Elder Abuse is codified under the Welfare & Institutions Code § 15600 et. seq., and is commonly known and titled as the Elder Abuse and Dependent Adult Civil Protection Act. An Elder is defined as anyone over the age of 65. Welf. & Inst. Code § 15610.27. A Dependent Adult is a person, regardless of whether the person lives independently, between the ages of 18 and 64 years who resides in this state and who has physical or mental limitations that restrict his or her ability to carry out normal activities or to protect his or her rights, including, but not limited to, persons who have physical or developmental disabilities, or whose physical or mental abilities have diminished because of age. Welf. & Inst. Code § 15610.23(a). A Dependant Adult also includes any person between the ages of 18 and 64 years who is admitted as an inpatient to a 24-hour health facility, as defined in Sections 1250, 1250.2, and 1250.3 of the Health and Safety Code. Welf. & Inst. Code § 15610.23(b).

California generally has five types Elder Abuse (and Dependent Adult Abuse): Neglect, Physical Abuse, Abduction, Abandonment, and Financial Elder Abuse. As defined by Welf. & Inst. Code § 15610.07, “Abuse of an elder or a dependent adult” means any of the following: (1) Physical abuse, neglect, abandonment, isolation, abduction, or other treatment with resulting physical harm or pain or mental suffering; (2) The deprivation by a care custodian of goods or services that are necessary to avoid physical harm or mental suffering; and, (3) Financial abuse, as defined in Section 15610.30.

Neglect generally means (1) “The negligent failure of any person having the care or custody of an elder or a dependent adult to exercise that degree of care that a reasonable person in a like position would exercise.”  Welf. & Inst. Code § 15610.57(a). Neglect can come in many forms, including the “[f]ailure to provide medical care for physical and mental health needs” and the “[f]ailure to protect from health and safety hazards.” (§ 15610.57, subd. (a)(1) and (b)(2), (3); see § 15610.35, subds. (a), (e)).

Physical Abuse as defined by Welf. & Inst. Code § 15610.63 includes acts such as: Assualt, Battery, Unreasonable Restraint, Chemical Restraint (heavily sedated), Sexual Indecent Acts (like rape), as well as verbal and mental abuse (like bullying) that causes mental suffering as defined by Welf. & Inst. Code § 15610.53. Mental Suffering generally means fear, agitation, confusion, severe depression, or other forms of serious emotional distress that is brought about by forms of intimidating behavior, threats, harassment, or by deceptive acts performed or false or misleading statements made with malicious intent to agitate, confuse, frighten, or cause severe depression or serious emotional distress of the elder or dependent adult.

Abandonment means the desertion or willful forsaking of an elder or a dependent adult by anyone having care or custody of that person under circumstances in which a reasonable person would continue to provide care and custody. Welf. & Inst. Code § 15610.05.

“Abduction” is defined at Welf. & Inst. Code § 15610.06, which generally includes the removal from California, and/or the restraint of the elder or dependent adult from returning to California, where the elder or dependent adult lacks the mental capacity to consent to such removal or restraint. Abduction also refers to the removal from, or restraint from returning to, California of any conservatee without the consent of the conservator.

Financial Elder generally described as transactions affecting an elder’s real or personal property interests in a way that the defendant knows or should know would be harmful to the elder when a person/entity directly or indirectly (assists) “takes, secretes, appropriates, obtains” property for wrongful use, intent to fraud or undue influence. Welf. & Inst. Code § 15610.30. Section 15610.30, subdivision (c) defines the phrase “[t]akes, secretes, appropriates, obtains, or retains” as occurring “when an elder or dependent adult is deprived of any property right, including by means of an agreement, donative transfer, or testamentary bequest, regardless of whether the property is held directly or by a representative of an elder or dependent adult.” Section 15610.30, subdivisions (a), (b) and (c), together, define the requisite level of culpability broadly. The defendant will be liable for “depriv[ation]” (§ 15610.30, subd. (c)) of an elder’s property that is taken “for a wrongful use or with intent to defraud” (id., subd. (a)(1), (2)), or that is committed by “undue influence” (id., .subds. (c), (a)(3)).  See Mahan v. Charles W. Chan Ins. Agency, Inc. (2017) 14 Cal.App.5th 841, 856–857.