The National Council on Aging (NCOA) estimates that one out of 10 people over the age of 60 years old has experienced some form of elder abuse. While elder abuse may involve physical or sexual abuse, it can also entail neglect, financial abuse, confinement, or willful deprivation. Because of the unique dangers faced by the elderly, the California legislature created the Elder Abuse and Dependent Adult Civil Protection Act (EADACPA) in 1982.
The elder abuse act in California was designed to protect dependent and elderly adults across the state from neglect, abandonment, and abuse. Because these individuals are part of a vulnerable class, they are more likely to suffer from neglect and abuse. In addition to criminal prosecutions, the EADACPA has specific requirements for mandatory and non-mandatory reporting of abuse.
It is estimated only one out of 14 cases of abuse are reported to the proper authorities. In 1991, the California legislature added a new section to the elder abuse act to encourage attorneys and victims to prosecute the perpetrators of elder abuse. If the plaintiff proves their case, they can collect their attorney costs, punitive damages, pain and suffering, and other costs.
What You Need to Know About the EADACPA
The EADACPA is designed for people who have been victims of elder abuse as well as to help their loved ones. This law details your rights and the measures you can take if you or your loved one has become a victim. At a basic level, the elder abuse act in California allows for civil enforcement of laws about elder abuse.
Within the act, the legislature clearly wrote out the remedies the elder could seek out. To pursue a case under the act, the elder’s lawyer must show clear and convincing evidence of abuse, neglect, or another violation of the act. The plaintiff must also show the defendant acted with fraud, malice, recklessness, or oppression.
The EADACPA covers harm to the elder such as:
- Neglect of personal hygiene, food, shelter, or clothing.
- Neglect by not providing medical care.
- Neglect through dehydration and/or malnutrition.
- Neglect by not protecting the elder from safety and health hazards.
- Abandonment of the elder.
- Financial abuse like theft, embezzlement, or mismanagement.
- Isolation of the individual.
- Physical or sexual abuse.
- Any treatment leading to pain, mental suffering, or physical harm.
Many experts believe financial abuse is the most common type of elder abuse. Unfortunately, many people don’t realize financial abuse is covered under the EADACPA. Because of this, elders and their loved ones often don’t seek help when they deserve it.
Financial abuse is whenever a person takes, retains, or misappropriates the property of the elder or dependent adult. This is done with the goal of defrauding or wrongly using the property. Even if someone simply assists with the misappropriation of the elder’s real or personal property, they could also be at fault.
If you believe you or someone you know has been abused, you can call 833-401-0832 to find the local Adult Protective Services (APS) in your county. The hotline is open 24 hours a day every day, so it is an easy, fast way to get help.
Other than calling APS, you can also visit your local office or call your local office directly. This file includes all of the APS offices in the state as well as their contact details.
If you or your loved one is in immediate danger, you should call 911 before doing anything else.
Once you notify your county APS office, they will generally have 10 days to respond to your report. Depending on the contents of the report, the APS office may send the report to your local law enforcement agency as well.
Check out our complete guide on How to Report Elder Abuse!
In addition to investigating the abuse, the APS will give you or your loved one ways to stay safe from harm. This may be through community resources or the APS worker may notify family members who were unaware of the abuse. They may also help caregivers learn better ways to manage stress.
Depending on the type of abuse, the APS investigator may refer the case to law enforcement. In some of these cases, the perpetrator will be prosecuted if they are found guilty of the crime they have committed. This prosecution will help to protect the victim as well as future victims.
The elder abuse act in California allows you to file a lawsuit under the act, which can lead to financial compensation. If you can prove the defendant acted with oppression, recklessness, malice, or fraud, you will be able to access a number of different forms of assistance.
Items That Are Covered by the Elder Abuse Act
Under the EADACPA, there are crucial requirements such as mandatory reporting. If you have full or intermittent responsibility for an elder or dependent adult, you are required to report instances of abuse.
There are specific requirements based on the type of abuse as well. For example, abuse leading to physical harm must be reported to law enforcement agencies within two hours of observing the harm. A written report must be made to the local ombudsman as well.
Along with caregivers, clergy, doctors, nurses, surgeons, and psychotherapists are also considered mandatory reporters under the California elder abuse act.
Abuse may include physical abuse, financial abuse, or neglect. In the lawsuit, the plaintiff must prove the defendant acted with recklessness, fraud, malice, or oppression.
Enhanced remedies like punitive damages, attorney fees, pain and suffering, and other costs can be covered, but the defendant must submit to a higher standard of proof. Additionally, the plaintiff must be proven responsible with evidence of egregious neglect or abuse.
Code Definitions for Elder Abuse
Section 15610.23: A dependent adult is someone who is between the ages of 18 and 64. This individual has mental or physical limitations, which restrict their ability to protect their rights or do normal activities. A dependent adult may also be someone who is between the previous ages who is an inpatient at a 24-hour medical facility.
Section 15610.27: In the elder abuse act in California, an elder is any person who is 65 years old or older.
Section 15610.07: The EADACPA says abuse may involve abduction, neglect, physical abuse, isolation, abandonment, or financial abuse leading to physical harm, mental suffering, or pain. It may also involve other treatment such as the deprivation of goods and services the individual needs to not suffer mental or physical harm. For example, denial of food or medication would be a violation of the act.
Section 15610.57: Neglect may involve not taking care of someone like a reasonable person would. This could involve things like not helping with personal hygiene, failing to provide food, or neglecting to offer proper medical care. Neglect may also involve malnutrition, failure to protect from health or safety hazards, and dehydration.
Abuse can also involve psychological abuse, physical abuse, financial abuse, isolation abuse, abandonment, and neglect.
California Penal Code 368: According to the penal code, perpetrators of elder abuse may have to pay up to $6,000 and spend a year in county jail or two to four years in state prison. If the victim has suffered from a bodily injury, they may be punished by five years in state prison for a victim who is 70 or older and three years for a victim younger than 70. For the death of the victim, the defendant shall get an added five years in state prison for someone under the age of 70 and seven years for a victim who was 70 or older.
The California Penal Code 368 goes on to describe the range of fines and lengths of imprisonment the defendant will face for various charges. These sentences can vary based on the kind of crime, the dependent’s relationship to the victim, and the level of harm.
Use the EADACPA to Get Help
Because elders are a particularly vulnerable group, abuse and neglect are quite common. This situation led to the creation of the elder abuse act in California. Through the EADACPA, you can get help for yourself or your loved one.
If you are unfamiliar with the process, you don’t have to get help alone. With the help of Berman & Riedel, you can protect your loved one and get the most out of this law. Call us today at (858) 240-9340!