Articles Posted in Defining Elder Abuse

Elder abuse typically refers to the knowing, intentional, or negligent act by a custodial care provider, caregiver, or any other person that causes harm to a vulnerable adult. In California, anyone aged 65 and older is protected by the Elder Abuse and Dependent Adult Civil Protection Act. The laws are designed to help prevent neglect and abuse to California seniors. Neglect falls within the definition of elder abuse, and unfortunately may have dire consequences to the victim.

In broadest terms, neglect is a type of elder abuse wherein a caregiver fails to provide the elder with basic needs including water, food, shelter, heat/air-conditioning, personal hygiene products and medical assistance. Failure to adequately move or reposition a bedridden elder, for example constitutes neglect, just as failing to keep elders properly nourished and hydrated constitutes neglect.

Neglect is particularly dangerous for elders, as it can lead to life-threatening consequences. Such consequences of neglect include:

Though much of the conversation around elder abuse is centered on nursing home malpractice, the leading issue many elders are currently facing is self-neglect. Self-neglect is defined by the National Adult Protective Services Association as, “an adult’s inability, due to physical or mental impairment or diminished capacity, to perform essential self-care…”, and is something that happens far too often within the older population worldwide. With many different factors to appreciate, it’s hard to always know exactly what to look for when trying to detect the symptoms of this epidemic.  

Who is most likely to experience self-neglect?

When having the conversation about self-neglect, it’s important to be aware of what some of the most vulnerable groups are. Though there has yet to be a study of adequate sample size and population diversity, researchers are already starting to see early trends of which demographics are more likely to have this problem.

It is nearly impossible to avoid any medication error at a nursing home, meaning every individual establishment is required by state inspectors to keep their error rate below 5 percent. This mandate only includes minor errors, with essentially no acceptance of major medical incompetence. However, even with these regulations in place, nursing homes are not infallible.

What Constitutes a Medication Error?

There are many different forms of medication malpractice ranging from minor mistakes with little to no consequence, all the way to life threatening errors. These are some of the most common errors:

Dehydration is a serious health risk, especially in elderly people.  Individuals over 65, who live alone or with their elderly partner, are at a higher risk of dehydration than other age groups because they may forget to stay hydrated or they are too tired to get a drink.  However, in a nursing home, dehydration should never happen and, in some situations, is an example of elderly abuse.

How Wide Spread Is This Issue?

One elderly person dying from dehydration in a nursing home is unforgivable.  People who live in nursing homes are there because they need help of varying degrees to survive.  One of the necessities of life is water.

One of the most vulnerable and overlooked populations in the United States is people over the age of 65.  Loved ones are usually on the lookout for things such as physical, verbal, and psychological abuse of the elderly.  However, too often, financial abuse is overlooked.  To make matters worse, the perpetrators of financial abuse are frequently the family, friends, and caregivers of the elderly.

What is Financial Abuse?

The Elder Abuse and Elder Financial Exploitation Statutes define elder financial abuse as:

One of the largest generations in American history is beginning to transition into the elderly stage of human life.  In this stage, many people become less independent and, as a result, require assisted living and clinical care.  As aging individuals become dependents, they tend to lose their mobility.  Pressure ulcers are a direct result of the inability of a person to reposition their body unassisted.  In nursing homes and hospitals, elderly people are too often neglected and the price they pay can be severe.

Pressure Ulcers and Their Stages

Pressure ulcers (often referred to as bedsores, decubitus ulcers, and pressure sores) are a form of breakdown of the skin caused by prolonged and unalleviated pressure, incontinence, dirty or untidy bedsheets, and more.  Typically, they form in areas such as the heels, hips, buttocks, tailbone, shoulder blades, and elbows.  They are categorized based on severity:

Financial abuse of elders is an unfortunate reality. In fact, elders are often specifically targeted by criminals looking to commit fraud and identity theft. There are many ways to prevent fraud and identity theft. It is important for elders, or their loved ones, to monitor their credit, and regularly review account statements to try to prevent or stop financial abuse.

All Californians are entitled to one free credit report per year from each of the three major credit reporting bureaus, Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. To get your free annual credit report visit www.annualcreditreport.com. This federal government approved website will enable you to pull your credit, or the credit of a loved senior, and receive a full report once each year.

While one free credit search is made available each year, elders would be smart to check their credit 2 or 3 times per year. Credit reports typically cost less than $20, and provide invaluable peace of mind by confirming that unauthorized accounts have not been opened, nor have illegitimate items been charged.

In addition to obtaining regular credit reports, it’s a good idea to have duplicate copies of monthly account statements sent not only to the elder, but to their trusted Financial Advisor, attorney, CPA, or a trusted family member. This will provide additional confirmation that all charges appear accurate, nobody has acquired the account number, and it is not being used without the consent of the elder.

Warning signs of fraud on bank statements may include:

*Withdrawals from outside of the elder’s primary area residence;
*Repeated withdrawals, particularly if the elder spends most of their time at home; and
*Checks written to unusual or unfamiliar people, organizations, or stores.

Keeping an eye on credit is important for Californians of all ages. However, it is especially important to monitor credit statements and account balances for elders who may have declining mental capacities, or medical conditions such as dementia that put them at greater risk for becoming a victim of financial elder abuse.

If you suspect, or confirm that your loved elder is the victim of financial abuse in California there are certain steps you should take. You may report any suspicion of abuse to the National Elder Abuse Hotline at 1-800-677-1116. In California, reports can be made to the local county Adult Protective Services Agency or to local law enforcement.
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It is no secret that many people have difficulty asking others for help. Elders living in Southern California are no different. Even though physical and mental capabilities may start to diminish with aging, it is still not easy for many seniors to let others know they are struggling.

That is why it is up to all of us to keep an eye on aging family members or friends. Here is a list of warning signs that a senior you love may need help from family members or professionals.

  1. Abnormal or repeated phone calls If your grandmother, mother, father, or other elder family members begin making phone calls to you repeatedly, or at peculiar times of day, it may indicate confusion. It may also be a sign of memory loss, or could indicate that the elder is feeling lonely or depressed. If you notice these types of calls, try scheduling set calls with your loved one every day to see if they stick to those times and calls. If they don’t, it may be indicative of cognitive decline.

Southern California elders – particularly those residing in nursing homes, or skilled nursing facilities – are unfortunately prone to developing life-threatening bedsores. Bedsores, which are also known as pressure ulcers, can lead to a host of health problems, particularly in elders whose health may already be compromised. Similarly, because many elders may be confined to a bed or wheelchair, their risk for developing these sores is increased.

According to the Mayo Clinic:

People are at risk of developing pressure sores if they have difficulty moving and are unable to easily change position while seated or in bed. Immobility may be due to:

In California, financial elder abuse is defined in Welfare and Institutions Code Section 15610.30. The code states: “Financial abuse of an elder or dependent adult occurs when a person or entity… takes, secrets, appropriates, obtains, or retains [or assists in doing any of these] real or personal property of an elder or dependent adult for a wrongful purpose or with intent to defraud or both.”

Although financial abuse is far too prevalent, the best defense against opportunists who would seek to defraud elders out of their money, property or belongings, is preventing the abuse in the first place. Although there is no surefire way to ensure that your loved one’s finances are protected at all times, there are warning signs to look for, which can indicate that financial abuse is taking place.

In an effort to best protect a loved elder from financial abuse including a loss of their property, assets or money, be on the lookout for these warning signs that a caregiver, a family member or even a staff member at a California nursing home is victimizing elders: