When an elder is placed in the care of an individual or an institution, it’s assumed they will be safe and protected. However, this is not always the case. Often seen as weak or vulnerable, the elderly can easily become victims of abuse. Learning about elder abuse can help you and your loved ones seek the assistance you need should you or a loved one become a victim.
Defined by California Penal Code 368, elder abuse is an action or willful omission that inflicts mental or physical harm on an elderly person. Whether through intentional or unintentional acts, it is a form of frequent and ongoing mistreatment. It can be committed knowingly through exploiting or harming the individual or unknowingly through negligent behaviors.
According to the National Council on Aging, it is estimated that only one in 24 cases of elder abuse cases are ever investigated. There are several types of elderly abuse, all of which are alarming. Many abuse types fall into three categories:
There are many signs that could allude to elder abuse, such as:
Looking through this list, it is easy to see why many instances of abuse are unreported, as they can easily be written off as part of the aging process. Therefore, it is even more important to have these situations investigated.
First and foremost, elder abuse, like child abuse, is governed by laws that require the reporting of suspected abuse. If abuse is discovered or suspected, you should immediately take action. The first step is to relocate the individual to a different care facility or with a different family member. After you are satisfied the individual is safe, turn to the police and/or care facility management. Ensure the abused individual receives the help they need for any physical or mental treatment. Then, contact an attorney who can review the case and help with any criminal charges and claims that need to be filed.
Filing a claim for elder abuse can be used to reclaim not just money but justice. Whether criminal prosecution moves forward or not, holding those financially accountable for the harm they caused can help to bring closure. In a civil claim, damages can be sought for medical bills, financial losses, legal fees, pain and suffering, emotional and mental distress, therapy because of the abuse, and even wrongful death damages.
To prove a person is responsible for the abuse, you need to collect documentation, witness statements, medical records, surveillance footage, and photos, as well as rely on the testimony of an expert. It is on the plaintiff to prove that the abuse occurred and that there was intent or negligence.
Elder or dependent adult abuse is when physical abuse, neglect, financial abuse, abandonment, isolation, abduction, or other behaviors cause physical or mental harm. They occur with the intent to cause pain or suffering or through neglect.
To show there was financial abuse against an elderly individual, there are three main facts that must be established:
Those who have a legal right to sue for elder abuse in California include:
Because of its difficulty in being easily recognized, psychological abuse is often the most common. These acts intentionally seek to cause pain to the individual. They can cause the victim to become withdrawn or feel fear, anxiety, or depression. The perpetrator may or may not know their actions are abusive or they could write off behavior changes as simply the result of aging.
Although elder abuse can be difficult to establish, it is important to report it if you suspect it. You don’t, however, have to face this challenge alone. With the help of an expert elder law attorney, you and your loved one will have the support and voice you need to hold those who cause harm accountable and seek the compensation you deserve. At Belgum, Fry, & Van Allen, our team of experienced and knowledgeable attorneys can use the law to help you and your loved ones. Contact us today.