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Home >> Solve a Problem >> Elder Abuse & Neglect
 

Elder Abuse & Neglect

Bullet 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.

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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. Up arrow to top of page

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The Select 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. Up arrow to top of page

bulletNational Research Center on Elder Abuse
A study of 6300 substantiated reports of elder abuse shows:
bullet37.2% Neglect
bullet26.3% Physical abuse
bullet20.0% Financial exploitation
bullet11.0% Emotional abuse
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 1.6% Sexual abuse

bullet30.0% Adult children perpetrators
bullet17.8% Other relatives
bullet14.8% Spouse
bullet12.8% Service provider
bullet10.0% Friends or neighbors
bullet 1.9% Grandchildren
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 1.7% Siblings

bulletMore than two-thirds of perpetrators are family members.
bulletElders 80 years and older are abused and neglected at two to three times their proportion of the elderly population.
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Female elders are abused at a higher rate than males, after accounting for their larger proportion in the aging population. Up arrow to top of page

bulletAn Adult Protective Services survey of cases in Los Angeles County showed the types of abuse to be evenly distributed:
bullet28% Neglect
bullet26% Fiduciary abuse
bullet25% Psychological abuse
bullet21% Physical abuse
bulletHowever, 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. Up arrow to top of page

Bullet 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.

bulletPhysical abuse includes sexual assault such as rape or fondling, and other acts such as beating, slapping, shoving or kicking of an elderly person.
bulletPsychological 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.
bulletFiduciary 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 Security payments.
bulletNeglect is defined as the failure to provide an elder with basic necessities such as adequate food, shelter, medical treatment or personal care. Up arrow to top of page

Bullet 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.

bulletOutright 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.
bulletFiduciary 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 elder's vulnerability.
Fiduciary abuse is often connected with substance abuse and the need to support an abuser's drug habits.
bullet 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.
bulletPsychological 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 Directory. Up arrow to top of page

Bullet 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.

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Bruises and 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.
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The presence of old and new bruises on the same part of the body are considered suspicious.

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The age of a bruise can often be determined by its color.
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Red or blue bruises are usually 1-5 days old,

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Green bruises are usually 5-7 days old,

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Yellow bruises are usually 7-10 days old, and

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Brown bruises are usually 10-14 days old.

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Bruises on the inner arms may occur when the victim raises his or her arms to protect the face from blows.

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Bruises under the armpits can indicate that the person has been dragged across the floor.

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Wide bruises across the mouth could be caused by the client being gagged to keep him or her quiet. Up arrow to top of page

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Other indicators of physical abuse include cuts and lacerations, burns and puncture wounds.

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Common indicators of neglect include:
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Dehydration or malnourishment, and

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Evidence of inadequate care, such as untended bed sores or poor hygiene. Up arrow to top of page

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The behavior of the victim or family members can also provide clues that they are involved in an abusive situation.
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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.

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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.

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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.

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Abusers will sometimes show indifference or lack of caring for the elder during the interview, or may direct threats or insults towards the elder. Up arrow to top of page

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Common indicators of possible financial abuse include the following:
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Inappropriate activity on bank accounts. For example, withdrawals from ATMs when the elder is unable to physically get to the bank.

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The presence of signed checks and other documents when the elder cannot write.

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The making out of a recent will when the elder is clearly incapable of making a will.

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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.

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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 attorney.

bulletInordinate focusing upon money and other financial issues by those who are supposed to be providing care for the elder. Up arrow to top of page

Bullet 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:

Outside of a nursing home or residential care facility:
Report to Adult Protective Services and/or to local police.
In a Nursing Home:
Report to the Ombudsman and/or to local police.
The licensing agency is the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services, Health Facilities Division who also investigates. The fact that a violation or citation was issued becomes part of the public record of the facility. You can check this record on the Internet.
In a Residential Care facility:
Report to the Ombudsman and/or to local police.
The licensing agency is the Department of Social Services, Community Care Licensing who also investigates. The fact that a violation or citation was issued becomes part of the public record of the facility.

To find more detailed information about filing a police report, please go to our Crime page. Up arrow to top of page

Bullet Assisting a Senior or Dependent Adult in Need

General Guidelines for First Responders

Medical Emergency,
Disoriented/Unresponsive,
Trauma/Injury
Patient/Client cannot
be left unattended
CALL 911
For Paramedics-EMS
Fire Dpt. or Police
Suspected Physical or
Fiduciary Abuse,
Caregiver Neglect or
Dangerous Self-neglect
CALL or FAX APS
Adult Protective Services
and/or CALL Police
Chronic Life-style
Needs assistance with
Living, Acute Poverty
Isolation, Hoarder, etc...
CALL the MSC
Multipurpose Senior Center
For Social Services


Agency Follow-up

Abuse Report Chart4Web.jpg (147366 bytes)
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 page.

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. Up arrow to top of page

Bullet 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. Up arrow to top of page

Bullet California Law About Elder Abuse
Definition of Criminal Elder Abuse & Neglect 

Elder Abuse is defined in California Penal Code Section 368:
(emphasis added)
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(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 behalf.

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(b) 
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(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.

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(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 as follows:
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(A) Three years if the victim is under 70 years of age.

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(B) Five years if the victim is 70 years of age or older.

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(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:
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(A) Five years if the victim is under 70 years of age.

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(B) Seven years if the victim is 70 years of age or older.

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(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 misdemeanor.

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(d) Any 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).

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(e) Any 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 ($400).

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(f) Any 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 years.

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(g) As used in this section, "elder" means any person who is 65 years or age or older.

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(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 Safety code.

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(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.

bullet(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. Up arrow to top of page

Other California Laws About Elder Abuse

Swindle.org offers a comprehensive directory of elder abuse laws in California with links to the full text for each law. Up arrow to top of page

 

Inside This Page

Statistics
Various types of elder
  abuse & neglect
Why elders are abused
Indictors of abuse
Reporting elder abuse
Assisting a senior at risk
  First responder response
  & agency follow-up
Filing a crime report
California Penal Code
  definition of criminal
  elder abuse & neglect 

Useful Links

Bibliography of Web sites
  about elder abuse
Adult Protective Services
Law enforcement in
  Los Angeles County
Smarter Seniors Forums

Related Stories

Faith-based response to
  elder abuse & prevention
Professionals who are
  mandated reporters of
  elder abuse
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   Desires"
  
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