What is Elder Abuse?
It is the neglect, exploitation or “painful or harmful” mistreatment of anyone who is 65 or older (or any disabled dependent adult age 18 to 64). It can involve physical violence, psychological abuse, isolation, abandonment, abduction, false imprisonment or a care giver’s neglect. It could also involve unlawful taking of a senior’s money or property. In short, it can involve various crimes, such as theft, assault or identity theft. But when the victim is 65 years old or older (or a disabled dependent adult), the criminal faces stiffer penalties
If a relative is refusing to visit unless you give money or do something for them, or if you are being compelled to “lend money” or change your estate plan to favor a care giver or family member, or if you are being threatened with harm if you don’t do what you are asked, it is all a form of something called “elder abuse”. Elder abuse can be physical abuse or financial abuse or neglect.
While the elderly are already extremely vulnerable to abuse, issues of mental impairment and dementia are additional significant factors that make seniors even more susceptible to elder abuse and/or neglect. Elder abuse happens everywhere – in poor, middle class, and upper-income households and in far too many long-term care facilities. It is a problem that has no demographic or ethnic boundaries. Because family members, close friends, and even professional care givers are often the culprits of abuse and neglect, it is often difficult to discover and even more difficult to accept.
Financial elder abuse is the mismanagement of money, property or other assets belonging to an elder. Anyone who has access to an elder’s personal information, such as bank accounts, credit cards, checkbooks, etc. can potentially steal from them. Once again, the elderly are particularly vulnerable to every form of abuse so be careful about whom you trust. Elders and their loved ones should take steps to protect the elder from financial abuse.
How To Protect Yourself From Financial Abuse
- Cancel all credit cards the elder is not using.
- Never keep the elder’s personal identification number (PIN) and their ATM card in the same place. If you need to write it down, be sure to keep it in a secure place.
- Never give your credit or ATM cards to a family member or a friend to buy things for you. Whenever possible, give them cash or better yet reimburse them with a check.
- Try to balance your checkbook or have a trusted family member or friend do it for you on a monthly basis. Immediately inform your bank or credit card companies of any activity that does not appear to be your own.
- Report financial abuse to Adult Protective Services by calling 1(877) 4-R-SENIORS or by calling your local police department.
- When to suspect you or someone you know may be a victim of financial abuse:
- You detect unusual activity in your bank accounts – such as numerous withdrawals or attempts to withdraw a large sum of money.
- A friend or caretaker asks you for a loan and tells you to keep it a secret. A need for secrecy can be a warning sign of an intent not to repay the loan.
- You see your bills piling up when payment is the responsibility of your caretaker.
- You see changes in your Will or Power of Attorney though you are unable or unwilling to make such changes or you are being coerced into changing your Will.
- You lack amenities, such as clothing and grooming items, although you have the means to pay for these items.
Neglect is a form of elder abuse in which a care giver fails to provide the senior with basic needs and in California, such neglect in considered elder abuse and there are special laws that were enacted to protect elders from such harms. This includes water, food, shelter, medical assistance, personal hygiene products, heat or air conditioning. It includes excessively medicating an elder or not positioning and/or moving an elder resulting in bedsores. Remember, seemingly non-serious forms of neglect (such as dehydration, bedsores, etc.) can be life-threatening to the elderly because they often do not have the ability to withstand physical neglect. Children and the elderly are particularly susceptible to neglect. As with any form of elder abuse, neglect should be promptly reported to the appropriate authorities.
Where Can I Find Someone to Help Me?
If you need help right now, call “911”
Find Adult Protective Services in Your County (PDF): http://www.cdss.ca.gov/agedblinddisabled/PG2300.htm
Contact the Senior Legal Hotline
(916) 551-2140 in Sacramento
(800) 222-1753 toll-free in California
Available 9:00 a.m. – 12:00 noon and 1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m., Mon through Fri; until 7:00 p.m. Thursdays
Elder Abuse in Nursing Homes: https://oag.ca.gov/bmfea
This Web site gives contact information for the California Commission on Aging, the principal advocate in the state for older individuals: http://ag.ca.gov/bmfea/pdfs/citizens_guide.pdf
This 36-page booklet offers guidance on ways to protect yourself and loved ones from becoming a victim of elder abuse: http://www.ccoa.ca.gov/
County Adult Protective Services (APS) helps adults who cannot care for themselves, or may have been abused or neglected. They handle reports of abuse in private homes, hotels, hospitals, health clinics, and daycare centers: http://www.co.contra-costa.ca.us/914/Adult-Protective-Services