Elder abuse can happen to any senior regardless of sex, race, or cultural background. In California, you can qualify as a victim of elder abuse if you are aged 65 years or older or if you are a “dependent adult”. A dependent adult is a person who is between the ages of 18 and 64 who is either (1) physically or mentally limited in their ability to carry out normal activities or to protect their rights or (2) who is admitted as an inpatient to a 24-hour health facility.
An estimated one in ten Americans aged 60 or older have experienced some type of elder abuse. Many of these cases go unreported, leaving the senior with no way to stop or prevent the abuse. Often, the abuser is a family member, such as an adult child. Social isolation and mental or physical disability can make a senior more vulnerable to abuse.
Different Types of Elder Abuse
Elder abuse can involve a range of different types of abuse. These include:
Physical abuse: Occurs when someone causes bodily harm to an elder, such as hitting or pushing. Physical abuse may also involve restraining an elder against their will or subjecting the elder to any kind of forced or unwanted sexual interaction.
Neglect: Occurs when a senior’s caregiver fails to respond to the senior’s needs, including provision of food, clothing, hygiene, water, shelter, or medication or other health care.
Abandonment: Leaving an elder alone without ensuring that the senior will receive the care they need.
Financial abuse: Wrongfully taking or using a senior’s money or funds, property, benefits, or other assets for the benefit of a person who is not the senior.
Emotional or psychological abuse: Occurs when a person threatens, harasses, or intimidates the elder, causing the elder to feel anguish, mental pain, fear, humiliation, confusion, agitation, or distress. This can include preventing the senior from visiting or speaking with friends or family, yelling at the senior, or using hurtful words directed at the senior.
Signs of Elder Abuse
There are many warning signs that a senior may be experiencing elder abuse. These include:
- Signs of physical injury such as bruises, broken bone or teeth, skin tears, or burns.
- A senior becomes withdrawn, agitated, violent, confused, fearful, or defensive
- Unexplained weight loss
- A senior no longer participates in activities they enjoy
- An elder develops sores
- Senior has a dirty or unsafe living condition
- Senior receives an eviction notice or has unpaid bills despite the senior having sufficient financial resources
- Senior lacks necessary tools needed for daily living, such as glasses, a cane, hearing aids, or medication
- A caregiver prevents a senior from speaking for him or herself, restricts the activities of the senior, or acts with anger or indifference to the senior
What Can You do if You Experience Elder Abuse?
It is important to seek help if you believe you or a loved one is experiencing elder abuse. Seniors who have been abused face a higher risk of death or injury compared with those who are not abused. Abuse can lead to serious physical injuries and have long-lasting psychological consequences.
Persons who experience elder abuse can seek an Elder Abuse Restraining Order against their abuser. Elder Abuse Restraining Orders are a special protection mechanism for seniors and are an important way to keep an elder safe. These restraining orders can include different elements, all of which are aimed at keeping the senior safe. A restraining order can order the abuser to stay away from the senior and can include a personal conduct order, which mean that the abuser will be prohibited from engaging in certain types of abusive behavior. If necessary, restraining orders may include a kick-out order, which is an order that requires that abuser to move out of the elder’s home.
Contra Costa Senior Legal Services can help seniors in Contra Costa County who are experiencing elder abuse. We can help seniors apply for a restraining order and we can refer seniors to additional services needed to protect them. Our services are free. Call us at 925-609-7900 to learn more about how we can help seniors who are experiencing elder abuse.
As always, if you feel that you are in danger, you can call 911.