Elder Abuse & Neglect
Elder Abuse & Neglect Statistics
The exact incidence of elder abuse is difficult to determine because this crime is
largely unreported. Many experts agree that 4% of elders age 65 and over
in this country are abused or neglected at any given time. Depending on
the study, only one in five to one in 14 cases is reported to authorities.
The majority of abusers are family members.
The National Elder Abuse Incidence Study, conducted by the
National Center on Elder Abuse for the Administration for Children and
Families and the Administration on Aging, U.S. Department of health
and Human Services, estimates that at least one-half million
seniors in domestic settings were abused and/or neglected, or
experienced self neglect during 1996. The study also found that for
every reported incident of elder abuse, neglect or self neglect,
approximately five go unreported.
Committee on Aging of the U.S. House of Representatives (in
1981) held extensive
hearings on elder abuse. In its follow-up report, the committee
concluded that at least 4% of all elders age 65 and over in this
country are abused or neglected.
Many researchers who have studied the problem also estimate that
approximately four to five percent of elders are abused or neglected each year.
With more than 34 million seniors age 65 and over in the United
States, 4% means that at least 1.4 million seniors are abused/neglected
throughout the country at any given time.
If this figure is applied to Los Angeles County (9.5 million
residents, with 11% or 1 million seniors) we come up with a total
of approximately 40,000 abused/neglected elders in the county.
In the City of Los Angeles, with 3.7 million residents, the
estimate is 16,000 abused or neglected seniors at any given time.
|National Research Center on Elder Abuse|
A study of 6300 substantiated reports of elder abuse shows:
|An Adult Protective Services survey of
cases in Los Angeles County showed the types of abuse to be
|26% Fiduciary abuse|
|25% Psychological abuse|
|21% Physical abuse|
|However, research indicated that many abuse victims were subject
to multiple types of abuse, such as a combination of
physical and psychological abuse, or a combination of fiduciary
abuse and neglect. |
Types of Elder Abuse and Neglect
Adult Protective Services Fact Sheet
Elder abuse and neglect can occur in a domestic setting or an
institutional setting. Different types of abuse have been identified and a
senior or dependent adult can be a victim of multiple types of abuse.
|Physical abuse includes sexual
assault such as rape or fondling, and other acts such as beating,
slapping, shoving or kicking of an elderly person.|
|Psychological abuse includes
verbal harassment, threats, or other forms of intimidation directed
towards an elder, such as the threat of placing him or her in a
nursing home out of punishment.|
|Fiduciary abuse includes the
stealing or misuse of property or other assets belonging to an elder,
such as his or her house, bank account, pension funds or Social
|Neglect is defined as the
failure to provide an elder with basic necessities such as adequate
food, shelter, medical treatment or personal care. |
Why Elders are Abused
Adult Protective Services Fact Sheet
According to research, elder abuse seems to be the result of several
factors, depending on the type of abuse.
|Outright physical abuse often
takes place within families in which there is a history of violence,
including child abuse and spouse abuse, or a history of drug abuse or
mental illness, or a combination of these. In some cases, elder
physical abuse is a retaliation for earlier child abuse.|
|Fiduciary abuse usually occurs
within situations where the elder is no longer able to protect his or
her financial interests and is exploited by an unscrupulous relative
or other caregiver who sees an opportunity to take advantage of the
Fiduciary abuse is often connected with substance abuse and the need
to support an abuser's drug habits.
| Neglect often occurs in
situations where the caregiver is unaware of the full needs of the
elder, or too stressed out or exhausted to meet those needs. In some
cases, the caregiver could do better but simply chooses not to take
sufficient responsibility for the elder's care.|
|Psychological abuse is sometimes
the result of stress, but is often used in combination with other
types of abuse to control the behavior of an elder.|
An extensive bibliography of Web sites about elder abuse is available
in the Open
Indicators of Abuse
Adult Protective Services Fact Sheet
There are many signs which indicate that abuse may be taking place.
Some are indicators of possible physical abuse or neglect. Others are
indicators of possible financial abuse.
welts, especially those that have suspicious shapes.
Whip-like bruises may have been produced by an electric cord. Cluster
of bruises often mean someone has been beaten by an object.
The presence of old and new
bruises on the same part of the body are considered
The age of a bruise can often
be determined by its color.
Red or blue bruises are usually
1-5 days old,
Green bruises are usually 5-7
Yellow bruises are usually 7-10
days old, and
Brown bruises are usually 10-14
Bruises on the inner arms may
occur when the victim raises his or her arms to protect the face
Bruises under the armpits can
indicate that the person has been dragged across the floor.
Wide bruises across the mouth
could be caused by the client being gagged to keep him or her
of physical abuse include cuts and lacerations, burns and puncture
indicators of neglect include:
Dehydration or malnourishment,
Evidence of inadequate care,
such as untended bed sores or poor hygiene.
The behavior of
the victim or family members can also provide clues that they are
involved in an abusive situation.
Abuse victims will often show
fear, anxiety, depression, or resignation when in the company
of abusive family members, or a hesitancy to talk openly about
what is going on.
The victim and family member may give
conflicting explanations as to how the victim was injured.
For this reason, investigators will try to interview the victim
and other family members separately.
Victims will sometimes not be
given the opportunity to speak for themselves when questioned
during an interview. Suspected abusers will try to speak for the
victim, giving only their version of what happened.
Abusers will sometimes show indifference
or lack of caring for the elder during the interview, or may
direct threats or insults towards the elder.
indicators of possible financial abuse include the following:
Inappropriate activity on bank
accounts. For example, withdrawals from ATMs when the elder is
unable to physically get to the bank.
The presence of signed checks
and other documents when the elder cannot write.
The making out of a recent will
when the elder is clearly incapable of making a will.
A recent change of title of a
house to someone who has befriended the elder when the elder
is incapable of understanding such a transaction.
The granting of a power of
attorney by the elder when she is unable to comprehend her
financial situation, or is mentally incapable of granting power of
|Inordinate focusing upon money and other financial issues
by those who are supposed to be providing care for the elder. |
Reporting Elder Abuse
Abused seniors and dependent adults are silent victims. They usually
are unable to report the abuse. Unlike abused children who may be
discovered through the school system, abused seniors can remain isolated
for extended periods of time. If you know or suspect that a senior is
being abused or severely neglected ... YOU
are his or her lifeline.
Reporting abuse or neglect of an elder or dependent adult in Los
Angeles County can
be confusing since several agencies have jurisdiction:
To find more detailed information about filing a police report, please
go to our Crime page.
Assisting a Senior or Dependent Adult in
General Guidelines for First Responders
be left unattended
Fire Dpt. or Police
Caregiver Neglect or
or FAX APS
Adult Protective Services
and/or CALL Police
Needs assistance with
Living, Acute Poverty
Isolation, Hoarder, etc...
Multipurpose Senior Center
For Social Services
Click on the thumbnail picture
above to see a more detailed full-size chart of first responder response
and agency follow-up. Use your Web browser's back button to return to this
This flowchart was prepared in the Spring of 2000 by the Hollywood Senior
Action Committee and the Hollywood Multi-Disciplinary Team for
Consultation on Elders at Risk. It was updated in May 2001 to reflect the
larger L.A. Metro Area.
Filing a Crime Report
Filing a crime report in Los Angeles County can be challenging since
many types of police departments exist throughout the county.
For more detailed information to guide you through the process, please
go to our Crime page.
California Law About Elder Abuse
Definition of Criminal Elder Abuse & Neglect
Elder Abuse is defined in California Penal Code Section
(a) 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
(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 thereon 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 in the state prison for
two, three, or four years.
(2) If in the commission of
an offense described in paragraph (1), the victim suffers great
bodily injury, as defined in subdivision (e) of Section 12022.7,
the defendant shall receive an additional term in the state prison
(A) Three years if the victim
is under 70 years of age.
(B) Five years if the victim is
70 years of age or older.
(3) If in the commission of
an offense described in paragraph (1), the defendant proximately
causes the death of the victim, the defendant shall receive an
additional term in the state prison as follows:
(A) Five years if the
victim is under 70 years of age.
(B) Seven years if the
victim is 70 years of age or older.
(c) Any person who, under
circumstances or conditions other than those 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 thereon unjustifiable physical
pain or mental suffering, or having the care or custody or 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 may be endangered, is guilty of a
person who is not a caretaker who violates any provision of law
proscribing theft or embezzlement, with respect to the
property of an elder or dependent adult, and who knows or reasonably
should know that the victim is an elder or 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, or real or personal property taken 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, or
real or personal property taken is of a value not exceeding four
hundred dollars ($400).
caretaker of an elder or a dependent adult who violates any provision
of law proscribing theft or embezzlement, with respect to
the property of that elder or 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, or real or
personal property taken 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, or real or personal
property taken is of a value not exceeding four hundred dollars
person who commits the false imprisonment of an elder or dependent
adult by the use of violence, menace, fraud, or deceit is
punishable by imprisonment in the state prison for two, three, or four
(g) As used in this section, "elder"
means any person who is 65 years or age or older.
(h) As used in this section, "dependent
adult" means any person who is between the ages of 18
and 64, who has physical or mental limitations which 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.
"Dependent adult" includes any person between the ages of 18
and 64 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
(i) As used in this section. "caretaker"
means any person who has the care, custody, or control of, or who
stands in a position of trust with, an elder or a dependent adult.
|(j) Nothing in this section shall preclude prosecution
under both this section and Section 187 or 12022.7 or any other
provision of law. However, a person shall not receive an additional
term of imprisonment under both paragraphs (2) and (3) of subdivision
(b) for any single offense, nor shall a person receive an additional
term of imprisonment under both Section 12022.7 and paragraph (2) or
(3) of subdivision (b) for any single offense. |
Other California Laws About Elder Abuse
a comprehensive directory of elder abuse laws in California with links to
the full text for each law.