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Elder Abuse

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What is elder abuse?

Elder abuse is the infliction of physical, emotional, or psychological harm on an older adult. Elder abuse also can take the form of financial exploitation or intentional or unintentional neglect of an older adult by the caregiver.

Physical Abuse?

Can range from slapping or shoving to severe beatings and restraint with ropes or chains. Hitting, beating, pushing, kicking, pinching, burning, or biting, over- or under-medicating, food deprivation, etc.

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Emotional or Psychological Abuse

Can range from name-calling or giving the "silent treatment" to intimidating and threatening the individual. Behaving in a way that causes fear, mental anguish, and emotional pain or distress can be considered abusive. Emotional and psychological abuse can include insults and threats, isolating the person from family, friends, and regular activities by force, threats or through manipulation.

Sexual Abuse

Can include inappropriate touching, photographing the person in suggestive poses, forcing the person to look at pornography, rape, sodomy, coerced nudity, or any unwanted sexual behavior.

Financial Exploitation

Can range from misuse of an elder’s funds to embezzlement. Financial exploitation includes fraud, forgery, taking money under false pretenses, forced property transfers, purchasing items with the elder’s funds without their knowledge or permission, or denying the elder access to his/her own funds or home. It includes the improper use of legal guardianship arrangements, powers of attorney, or conservatorships. It also includes a variety of scams perpetrated by sales people for health-related services, mortgage companies, financial managers, and labor.

Possible signs of elder abuse

One sign does not necessarily indicate abuse, however, some tell-tale signs that there could be a problem are:

  • Bruises, pressure marks, broken bones, abrasions, and burns may indicate physical abuse or neglect.
  • Unexplained withdrawal from normal activities, a sudden changed in alertness, and unusual depression may indicate emotional abuse.
  • Bruises around the breasts or genital area can occur from sexual abuse.
  • Sudden changes in financial situations may indicate exploitation.
  • Bedsores, unattended medical needs, poor hygiene, and unusual weight loss may indicate neglect.
  • Behavior such as belittling, threats, and other uses of power and control by spouses could indicate verbal or emotional abuse.
  • Strained or tense relationships, frequent arguments between a caregiver and elderly person could also indicate abuse.

If you notice changes in personality or behavior, you should begin to question if there may be a problem.

If you suspect someone is the victim of elder abuse

 Contact your local adult protective services department, long-term care ombudsman, or police. If you suspect immediate danger to an elderly person or dependent adult call your local police (9-1-1) immediately. You will be asked to provide the elder's name, address, contact information, and details about your concerns.

Authorities will want to know:

  • If there are any known medical problems (including confusion or memory loss)
  • What kinds of family or social supports are in place
  • If you have seen or heard incidents of yelling, hitting, or other abusive behavior

You will also be asked to supply your name, address, telephone number, etc., although most agencies will take the report even if you wish to remain anonymous.

California Legislation on Elder Abuse

Pursuant to Penal Code Section 368(b) (1), any person who, under circumstances or conditions likely to produce great bodily harm or death, willfully causes or permits any elder or dependent adult, with knowledge that he or she is an elder or a dependent adult, to suffer, or inflicts unjustifiable physical pain or mental suffering, or having the care or custody of any elder or dependent adult, willfully causes or permits the person or health of the elder or dependent adult to be injured, or willfully causes or permits the elder or dependent adult to be placed in a situation in which his or her person or health is endangered, is punishable by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one year, or by a fine not to exceed six thousand dollars ($6,000), or by both that fine and imprisonment, or by imprisonment in the state prison for two, three, or four years. The sentence can be enhanced if the victim suffers great bodily injury or is over 70 years of age.

Penal Code Sections 368 (d) and (e) provide that any person or caretaker who is guilty of theft, embezzlement, forgery, fraud, or identity theft, with respect to the property or personal identifying information of an elder or a dependent adult, and who knows or reasonably should know that the victim is an elder or a dependent adult, is punishable by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one year, or in the state prison for two, three, or four years, when the money, labor, goods, services, or real or personal property taken or obtained is of a value exceeding four hundred dollars ($400); and by a fine not exceeding one thousand dollars ($1,000), by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one year, or by both that fine and imprisonment, when the money, labor, goods, services, or real or personal property taken or obtained is of a value not exceeding four hundred dollars ($400).

Additional Resources and Information

San Bernardino County Adult Protection Services
Human Services System
696 East Mill Street
San Bernardino, CA 92415-0640

(877) 565-2020 (24-Hour Hotline)
(909) 891-9019 (Phone)
(909) 335-0650 (Fax)

Citizen's Guide to Preventing & Reporting Elder Abuse

Guía Para Ciudadanos Para Prevenir Y Denunciar El Abuso
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Visit the website of the Office of the Attorney General for additional information and resources.

California Department of Social Services – Adult Protective Services (APS)

California Department of Aging

Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program

National Center on Elder Abuse

California Registry is a free service offered to seniors or their family members to assist them in locating senior housing, locating retirement homes, assisted living, board and care facilities, nursing homes, Alzheimer's units and home health care in California.