Each year hundreds of thousands of older persons are abused, neglected, and exploited. The victims are generally people who are older, frail, and vulnerable. Abusers are both men and women, and may be family members, friends, or “trusted” others.
The CALIFORNIA PENAL CODE SECTION 368 defines elder abuse: (emphasis added)
(a)The Legislature finds and declares that crimes against elders and dependent adults are deserving of special consideration and protection, not unlike the special protections provided for minor children, because elders and dependent adults may be confused, on various medications, mentally or physically impaired, or incompetent, and therefore less able to protect themselves, to understand or report criminal conduct, or to testify in court proceedings on their behalf.
(b)(1) Any person who knows or reasonably should know that a person is an elder or dependent adult and who, under circumstances or conditions likely to produce great bodily harm or death, willfully causes or permits any elder or dependent adult *** to suffer, or inflicts thereon unjustifiable physical pain or mental suffering, or having the care or custody of any elder or dependent adult person, willfully causes or permits the person or health of the elder or dependent adult to be injured, or willfully causes or permits the elder or dependent adult to be placed in a situation in which his or her health is endangered;
IS PUNISHABLE BY IMPRISONMENT IN A COUNTY JAIL FOR UP TO 1 YEAR, OR BY A FINE OF UP TO $6,000, OR BOTH FINE AND IMPRISONMENT, OR BY IMPRISONMENT IN THE STATE PRISON FOR 2, 3, OR 4 YEARS [3 years State Prison, if victim is under 70 and 5 years if victim is over 70.]
If the defendant proximately causes the death of the victim, an additional term of 5 years for victim under 70 and 7 years for over 70.
Legislatures in all 50 states have passed some form of elder abuse laws. Laws and definitions of terms may vary but they are broadly defined as: physical, sexual, neglect, exploitation, emotional abuse, abandonment and self-neglect.
TYPES OF ABUSE: Physical abuse includes, but not limited to, beatings, slapping, or kicking. Sexual assaults are also defined as physical abuse. Psychological abuse is verbal harassment, or threats or any form of intimidation. Fiduciary abuse entails stealing or misuse of property, bank accounts or other assets. Neglect is defined by the failure to provide basic necessities such as food, medical treatment, or personal care.
INDICATION OF ABUSE: Physical manifestation of injuries such as bruising, broken bones, cuts and lacerations or burns and puncture wounds. Indicators of neglect include dehydration, malnourishment or poor hygiene. Factors evidencing possible financial abuse include: inappropriate activity on bank accounts i.e. ATM withdrawals when elder is bedridden; granting of power of attorney; or drafting a recent will. These acts are just some indicia of elder violence and being keenly aware of them enables us to protect them.
PROTECTING OUR ELDERS: Report elder abuse by filing a crime report. The first step is always to contact your local law enforcement agency and continue to insure elder protection by diligently participating in the prosecution of the defendants.
RESOURCES: (1) DPSS (Adult Services), (2) Community Legal Services (3) Multipurpose Senior Centers (4) Long Term Care Ombudsman Program (5) Conservatorships is a court proceeding to appoint a manager for the financial affairs or the personal care of a person who is either physically or mentally impaired.
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