Elder Abuse And Neglect

Nursing homes, assisted-living facilities, hospitals and other facilities have many critical responsibilities to the people they serve. These facilities must provide an environment where the people in their care are safe, welcome, and are able to live life to the fullest. While many nursing homes provide such an environment, some do not. When nursing homes allow their staff to commit acts of neglect or abuse, the results can be tragic.


*The below FAQs are provided by the National Center on Elder Abuse.  CLICK HERE to view all the NCEA questions/answers.

In general, elder abuse is a term referring to any knowing, intentional, or negligent act by a caregiver or any other person that causes harm or a serious risk of harm to an older adult. Legislatures in all 50 states have passed some form of elder abuse prevention laws. Laws and definitions of elder abuse vary by state, but broadly defined; they may include:

Physical Intentional use of physical force that results in illness, injury, pain or functional impairment
Sexual Non-consensual sexual contact of any kind
Neglect Caregivers or other responsible parties failing to provide food, shelter, health care, or protection
Financial Misappropriation of an older person's money or property
Emotional Inflicting mental pain, anguish, or distress on a person
Self-neglect A person who fails to perform self-care tasks such that it threatens his/her own health or safety
While one sign does not necessarily indicate abuse, some tell-tale signs that indicate abuse are:

Physical Bruises, pressure marks or sores, broken bones, abrasions, and burns
Sexual Bruises or injury to the genital area which may present as difficulty moving or sitting
Emotional Withdrawal from normal activities, anxiety, depression, unusual behavior, or unease
Neglect Bedsores, unattended medical needs, poor hygiene, and unusual weight loss
Financial Uncharacteristic purchases by the individual or caregiver; failure to pay bills or keep appointments; questionable behavior
If you suspect any type of abuse, you should contact the appropriate authority referenced below. You do not need to prove that abuse is occurring. The professionals will investigate claims of elder mistreatment.
Law Enforcement If someone is in immediate danger, call 911 or the local police.
Adult Protective Services
If the danger is not imminent, report concerns to the local Adult Protective Services (APS) agency. Find the APS reporting number for each state by visiting our State Resources section.
Long Term Care Ombudsman If you suspect abuse of a person living in a nursing home, assisted living facility, or board and care home contact the local Long Term Care Ombudsman. Find your local Long-Term Care Ombudsman.
When making the call, be ready to give the older adult's name, address, contact information, and details about why you are concerned. You may be asked a series of questions to provide authorities with information regarding the situation. Questions may include:
  • Are there any known medical problems (including confusion or memory loss)?
  • What kinds of family or social supports are there?
  • Have you seen or heard incidents of yelling, hitting, or other abusive behavior?
You might also be asked for your contact information, but most states will take a report even if you do not identify yourself.
A combination of psychological, social, and economic factors, along with the mental and physical conditions of the victim and the perpetrator, contribute to the occurrence of elder maltreatment. The main risks are related to:
  • Social isolation
  • Lack of access support and resources
  • Physical, mental, or emotional dependence
  Contributing factors may include
  • Dementia and cognitive impairment
  • Caregiver burden and burnout
  • Financial Circumstances
  • Physical Weakness
  • Level of dependence on a caregiver
  • Living situations: Home, Nursing Home, Long-Term Care Imbalanced relationships with one partner exerting control over the other
Register your phone number on the National Do Not Call Registry by visiting www.DoNotCall.gov or call 888-382-1222. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau offers information and tools for older Americans. The Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force offers resources and reports to help protect yourself against common types of frauds and scams. Stay alert to common frauds and scams by checking consumer protection sites such as Fraud.org and FBI Common Fraud Schemes.
Being vigilant and aware of the risk factors and signs of elder abuse is the key to prevention. Signs of Elder Abuse fact sheet is a great place to start. Social isolation is one of the main risk factors in elder abuse. Stay connected with older adults and do what you can to connect them with communities and others. Long-term care ombudsmen are advocates for residents of nursing homes, board and care homes, and assisted living facilities. Ombudsmen provide information about how to find a facility and what to do to get quality care. Call the Eldercare Locator at 800-677-1116 for information and referrals on services in your area.



A 71 year-old resident of an “Alzheimer’s/Dementia Care” facility was hit by a semi-truck on the freeway and sustained massive, life-threatening injuries. She had been admitted to the facility by her daughter after repeated incidents of wandering from her home, staying out all night, and awakening cold, disoriented, and injured. She was placed in the facility because her daughter wanted her to be safe.

The facility used a key pad system to control its exits, but gave the code to all of its staff, residents’ families, and even some residents. The patient learned the code, let herself out of the facility, and after wandering for an hour or two, made her way onto the freeway where she was struck by the semi. Because the facility had ceased monitoring the patient, it did not know of her departure until the hospital advised the daughter of her mother’s injuries.

Since the daughter knew that her mother was in a “secured” facility and believed that there must have been some identity mix-up, she called the facility to confirm her mother’s presence. The facility only learned of her departure when it checked her room and found it empty. This was a case that involved both elder abuse and elder neglect. The case has been settled.

Your situation may not be as outrageous as our case above, and though you may have an uneasy feeling about what’s taking place at the care facility of a loved one, you may not be sure if it’s legally “abuse” or “neglect,” or what your approach should be to rectify any issues.

Call our offices and set up an appointment for a free case evaluation.

We understand the laws that protect nursing home and care facility residents, and over the years have recovered millions of dollars for the victims of abuse, neglect and negligence, and for their families.

The following are the definitions of Abuse and Neglect of an elder or dependent adult as set forth by the Welfare & Institutions Code. After reading the following, if you suspect abuse or neglect, don’t accuse the facility or staff of any harm. Call our offices to request a free case evaluation first to determine a proper course of action.




“Abuse of an elder or a dependent adult” means either of the following:

(a) Physical abuse, neglect, financial abuse, abandonment, isolation, abduction, or other treatment with resulting physical harm or pain or mental suffering.

(b) The deprivation by a care custodian of goods or services that are necessary to avoid physical harm or mental suffering.


(a) “Financial abuse” of an elder or dependent adult occurs when a person or entity does any of the following:

(1) Takes, secretes, appropriates, obtains, or retains real or personal property of an elder or dependent adult for a wrongful use or with intent to defraud, or both.

(2) Assists in taking, secreting, appropriating, obtaining, or retaining real or personal property of an elder or dependent adult for a wrongful use or with intent to defraud, or both.

(3) Takes, secretes, appropriates, obtains, or retains, or assists in taking, secreting, appropriating, obtaining, or retaining, real or personal property of an elder or dependent adult by undue influence, as defined in Section 1575 of the Civil Code.

(b) A person or entity shall be deemed to have taken, secreted, appropriated, obtained, or retained property for a wrongful use if, among other things, the person or entity takes, secretes, appropriates, obtains, or retains the property and the person or entity knew or should have known that this conduct is likely to be harmful to the elder or dependent adult.

(c) For purposes of this section, a person or entity takes, secretes, appropriates, obtains, or retains real or personal property when an elder or dependent adult is deprived or any property right, including by means of an agreement, donative transfer, or testamentary bequest, regardless of whether the property is held directly or by a representative of an elder or dependent adult.

(d) For purposes of this section, “representative” means a person or entity that is either of the following:

(1) A conservator, trustee, or other representative of the estate of an elder or dependent adult.

(2) An attorney-in-fact of an elder or dependent adult who acts within the authority of the power of attorney.


(a) “Neglect” means either of the following:

(1) The negligent failure of any person having the care or custody of an elder or a dependent adult to exercise that degree of care that a reasonable person in a like position would exercise.
(2) The negligent failure of an elder or dependent adult to exercise that degree of self care that a reasonable person in a like position would exercise.

(b) Neglect includes, but is not limited to, all of the following:

(1) Failure to assist in personal hygiene, or in the provision of food, clothing, or shelter.
(2) Failure to provide medical care for physical and mental health needs. No person shall be deemed neglected or abused for the sole reason that he or she voluntarily relies on treatment by spiritual means through prayer alone in lieu of medical treatment.
(3) Failure to protect from health and safety hazards.
(4) Failure to prevent malnutrition or dehydration.
(5) Failure of an elder or dependent adult to satisfy the needs specified in paragraphs (1) to (4), inclusive, for himself or herself as a result of poor cognitive functioning, mental limitation, substance abuse, or chronic poor health.


“Physical abuse” means any of the following:

(a) Assault, as defined in Section 240 of the Penal Code.

(b) Battery, as defined in Section 242 of the Penal Code.

(c) Assault with a deadly weapon or force likely to produce great bodily injury, as defined in Section 245 of the Penal Code.

(d) Unreasonable physical constraint, or prolonged or continual deprivation of food or water.

(e) Sexual assault, that means any of the following:

(1) Sexual battery, as defined in Section 243.4 of the Penal Code.
(2) Rape, as defined in Section 261 of the Penal Code.
(3) Rape in concert, as described in Section 264.1 of the Penal Code.
(4) Spousal rape as defined in Section 262 of the Penal Code.
(5) Incest, as defined in Section 285 of the Penal Code.
(6) Sodomy, as defined in Section 286 of the Penal Code.
(7) Oral copulation, as defined in Section 288a of the Penal Code.
(8) Sexual penetration, as defined in Section 289 of the Penal Code.
(9) Lewd or lascivious acts as defined in paragraph (2) of subdivision (b) of Section 288 of the Penal Code.

(f) Use of a physical or chemical restraint or psychotropic medication under any of the following conditions:

(1) For punishment.
(2) For a period beyond that for which the medication was ordered pursuant to the instructions of a physician and surgeon licensed in the State of California, who is providing medical care to the elder or dependent adult at the time the instructions are given.
(3) For any purpose not authorized by the physician and surgeon.