In California, elders are defined as persons 65 years and older. Under California law, elder abuse can be both criminal and/or civil. Criminal elder abuse occurs where any person who knows that a person is an elder and willfully causes or permits any elder to suffer, or inflicts unjustifiable physical pain or mental suffering on the elder. It also covers situations where a person willfully causes or permits the elder to be placed in a situation in which elder’s health is endangered. (Penal Code Section 368). Civil law defines civil elder abuse to mean physical abuse, neglect, financial abuse, abandonment, isolation, abduction, or other treatment resulting in physical harm or pain or mental suffering. It also means the deprivation by a care custodian of goods or services that are necessary to avoid physical harm or mental suffering. (Welfare & Institutions Code Section 15610.07). Both the Courts and the various governmental agencies have held that abuse may be defined in a broad category of actions:
- Physical Abuse results in bodily injury, pain, or impairment which includes but is not limited to assault, battery, unreasonable restraints, etc. For further definition look at California Welfare and Institution Code Section 15610.63. Perpetrators can be caregivers or attendants, family and extended family members (including intimate partners), and possibly abusing drugs/alcohol.
- Psychological Abuse is the willful infliction of mental and emotional anguish by threat, humiliation, or other verbal or nonverbal conduct or being confined to a room for extended periods of time, etc. For further definition look at California Welfare and Institution Code Section 15610.53. Perpetrators are usually family members, caregivers, or acquaintances.
- Financial Abuse is the illegal or improper use of an elderly person’s funds, property or resources, which includes but is not limited to fraudulent financial investment, extorting money from an elder, or anyone who stands in a position of trust and uses that to their advantage, etc. For further definition look at California Welfare and Institution Code Section 15610.30. Perpetrators can be family members possibly with abuse, gambling or financial problems, stand to inherit and feel justified in taking funds, or fear the elder person will use up all their savings, depriving the abuser of an inheritance.
- Neglect Abuse is the failure of a caregiver to fulfill caregiving responsibilities, which includes but is not limited to when an individual fails to give adequate personal hygiene, fails to prevent malnutrition, fails to provide clothing or shelter, etc. Perpetrators are usually paid attendants, family members, employees of long term facilities, caregivers lacking adequate skills, training, time or energy, and caregivers who are mentally ill, or have alcohol, substance abuse and other mental health problems.
- Isolation Abuse includes but is not limited to an individual prevents another (or him or herself) from having contact with other by refusing calls, mail or visitors. For further definition look at California Welfare and Institution Code Section 15610.43.
- Abandonment includes but is not limited to an individual who willfully forsakes an elder. For further definition look at California Welfare and Institution Code Section 15610.05