Elder Abuse

Definition of Elder Abuse

Elder abuse is the physical, emotional, financial, sexual mistreatment or neglect of our elders. Abuse may occur at the hands of the very people entrusted with the care of an elder, such as caregivers and nursing home staff, or may be caused by family members, trusted advisors, or strangers. According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, approximately one to two million Americans aged 65 or older have been the victim of elder abuse. This is a growing problem which must be combated. Abuse may include dehydration, anxiety, depression, fractures, different color bruises, cigarette burns, scratches, rope burn, bite marks, vacant stare from medication, drooling, malnutrition, unexplained weight loss, bed sores, decubitus ulcers, urinary tract infections, and nursing home infections. Abuse can include conduct was that intentional and malicious and done for the purpose of causing an elderly person to suffer humiliation, mental anguish. and emotional and physical distress.

Under the California Elder Abuse Act, "heightened remedies are available to plaintiffs who successfully sue for dependent adult abuse. Where it is proven by clear and convincing evidence that a defendant is liable for neglect or physical abuse, and the plaintiff proves that the defendant acted with recklessness, oppression, fraud, or malice, a court shall award attorney fees and costs. Additionally, a decedent's survivors can recover damages for the decedent's pain and suffering." (Sababin v. Superior Court (2006) 144 Cal.App.4th 81, 88 (Sababin).)

Abuse of an elder or a dependent adult is defined under the Act as "[p]hysical abuse, neglect, financial abuse, abandonment, isolation, abduction, or other treatment with resulting physical harm or pain or mental suffering" (§ 15610.07, subd. (a)) or "[t]he deprivation by a care custodian of goods or services that are necessary to avoid physical harm or mental suffering" (id., at subd. (b)). "Neglect includes the failure to assist in personal hygiene, or in the provision of food, clothing, or shelter; the failure to provide medical care for physical and mental health needs; the failure to protect from health and safety hazards; and the failure to prevent malnutrition or dehydration. (§ 15610.57.) Physical abuse means, inter alia, assault, battery, prolonged deprivation of food or water, unreasonable physical restraint, or sexual assault. (§ 15610.63.)" (Sababin, supra, 144 Cal.App.4th at p. 88.)

Seniors living in nursing homes, assisted living, or other residential long-term care facilities often suffer from diseases which are mentally and physically limiting, making them substantially dependent upon facility staff to take care of basic needs. While the vast majority of such facilities provide quality care and are ethical, when facility staff fails to adequately take care of the basic needs of the seniors residing in their facility, or worse, intentionally abuse or mistreat elders staying in their facilities, residents are often left helpless and unable to defend themselves. Residents maintain all of their dignity, fundamental civil, and human rights and liberties when they are admitted to a nursing home. Our attorneys work tirelessly to enforce the rights of the elderly, hold perpetrators of abuse responsible, and prevent harm from occurring to other seniors.

Financial elder abuse involves taking, appropriating or retaining the real or personal property of an elder for a wrongful use or with intent to defraud, or both. Financial elder abuse may be committed by strangers, but it is often committed by someone who is close to or in a position of trust with the elderly victim, such as a caregiver, family member, or financial advisor.

Financial elder abuse may include:

Obtaining title to an elder's property after forging a signature on a deed;

Without elder's knowledge or consent, withdrawal of all funds from elder's savings account; Using a forged check to withdraw money from an elderly victim's account; Using undue influence to coerce elders into changing their Will or Trust, making an outright gift, or changing beneficiary designations on their retirement account or life insurance policy.

The California Legislature recognized that elders and dependent adults may be subjected to abuse, neglect, or abandonment and that this state has a responsibility to protect these persons. The Legislature also declared that California shall foster and promote community services for the economic, social, and personal well-being of its citizens in order to protect those persons described in California Welfare & Institutions Code Section 15600. Finally the California Legislature found and declared that infirm elderly persons and dependent adults are a disadvantaged class, that cases of abuse of these persons are seldom prosecuted as criminal matters, and few civil cases are brought in connection with this abuse due to problems of proof, court delays, and the lack of incentives to prosecute these suits.

California Penal Code, Section 368

The Legislature finds and declares that crimes against elders and dependent adults are deserving of special consideration and protection, not unlike the special protections provided for minor children, because elders and dependent adults may be confused, on various medications, mentally or physically impaired, or incompetent, and therefore less able to protect themselves, to understand or report criminal conduct, or to testify in court proceedings on their own behalf.

Please contact our office today at 310-914-3222 from the greater Los Angeles area, 415-465-6566 from Northern California or 714-280-0601 from Orange County.  Our knowledgeable attorneys are ready serve your needs clients in Berkeley, Beverly Hills, Calabasas, Culver City, Encino, Glendale, Hidden Hills, Irvine, Los Angeles, Marin County, San Francisco, Santa Ana, Santa Monica, Sherman Oaks, Thousand Oaks, Torrance, Tustin, Westlake Village and throughout Southern California.

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