Understanding Elder Abuse Under CA Law

Although knowing the signs of elder abuse can be the first step towards prevention, understanding what the law prohibits is your first step towards justice.

The following are important sections from California’s Welfare and Institutions Code that help define elder abuse under the law:

“Elder” means any person residing in this state, 65 years of age or older.

“Abuse of an elder or a dependent adult” means either of the following:

(a) Physical abuse, neglect, financial abuse, abandonment, isolation, abduction, or other treatment with resulting physical harm or pain or mental suffering.

(b) The deprivation by a care custodian of goods or services that are necessary to avoid physical harm or mental suffering.

“Dependent adult” means any person between the ages of 18 and 64 years who resides in this state and who has physical or mental limitations that restrict his or her ability to carry out normal activities or to protect his or her rights, including, but not limited to, persons who have physical or developmental disabilities, or whose physical or mental abilities have diminished because of age.

“Mental suffering” means fear, agitation, confusion, severe depression, or other forms of serious emotional distress that is brought about by forms of intimidating behavior, threats, harassment, or by deceptive acts performed or false or misleading statements made with malicious intent to agitate, confuse, frighten, or cause severe depression or serious emotional distress of the elder or dependent adult.

“Physical abuse” means any of the following:

(a) Assault, as defined in Section 240 of the Penal Code.

(b) Battery, as defined in Section 242 of the Penal Code.

(c) Assault with a deadly weapon or force likely to produce great bodily injury, as defined in Section 245 of the Penal Code.

(d) Unreasonable physical constraint, or prolonged or continual deprivation of food or water.

(e) Sexual assault, that means any of the following:

(1) Sexual battery, as defined in Section 243.4 of the Penal Code.

(2) Rape, as defined in Section 261 of the Penal Code.

(3) Rape in concert, as described in Section 264.1 of the Penal Code.

(4) Spousal rape, as defined in Section 262 of the Penal Code.

(5) Incest, as defined in Section 285 of the Penal Code.

(6) Sodomy, as defined in Section 286 of the Penal Code.

(7) Oral copulation, as defined in Section 288a of the Penal Code.

(8) Sexual penetration, as defined in Section 289 of the Penal Code.

(9) Lewd or lascivious acts as defined in paragraph (2) of subdivision (b) of Section 288 of the Penal Code.

(f) Use of a physical or chemical restraint or psychotropic medication under any of the following conditions:

(1) For punishment.

(2) For a period beyond that for which the medication was ordered pursuant to the instructions of a physician and surgeon licensed in the State of California, who is providing medical care to the elder or dependent adult at the time the instructions are given.

(3) For any purpose not authorized by the physician and surgeon.

“Financial abuse” of an elder or dependent adult occurs when a person or entity does any of the following:

(1) Takes, secretes, appropriates, obtains, or retains real or personal property of an elder or dependent adult for a wrongful use or with intent to defraud, or both.

(2) Assists in taking, secreting, appropriating, obtaining, or retaining real or personal property of an elder or dependent adult for a wrongful use or with intent to defraud, or both.

(3) Takes, secretes, appropriates, obtains, or retains, or assists in taking, secreting, appropriating, obtaining, or retaining, real or personal property of an elder or dependent adult by undue influence, as defined in Section 1575 of the Civil Code.

(b) A person or entity shall be deemed to have taken, secreted, appropriated, obtained, or retained property for a wrongful use if, among other things, the person or entity takes, secretes, appropriates, obtains, or retains the property and the person or entity knew or should have known that this conduct is likely to be harmful to the elder or dependent adult.

(c) For purposes of this section, a person or entity takes, secretes, appropriates, obtains, or retains real or personal property when an elder or dependent adult is deprived of any property right, including by means of an agreement, donative transfer, or testamentary bequest, regardless of whether the property is held directly or by a representative of an elder or dependent adult.

(d) For purposes of this section, “representative” means a person or entity that is either of the following:

(1) A conservator, trustee, or other representative of the estate of an elder or dependent adult.

(2) An attorney-in-fact of an elder or dependent adult who acts within the authority of the power of attorney.

Goods and services necessary to avoid physical harm or mental suffering” include, but are not limited to, all of the following:

(a) The provision of medical care for physical and mental health needs.

(b) Assistance in personal hygiene.

(c) Adequate clothing.

(d) Adequately heated and ventilated shelter.

(e) Protection from health and safety hazards.

(f) Protection from malnutrition, under those circumstances where the results include, but are not limited to, malnutrition and deprivation of necessities or physical punishment.

(g) Transportation and assistance necessary to secure any of the needs set forth in subdivisions (a) to (f), inclusive.

“Isolation” means any of the following:

(1) Acts intentionally committed for the purpose of preventing, and that do serve to prevent, an elder or dependent adult from receiving his or her mail or telephone calls.

(2) Telling a caller or prospective visitor that an elder or dependent adult is not present, or does not wish to talk with the caller, or does not wish to meet with the visitor where the statement is false, is contrary to the express wishes of the elder or the dependent adult, whether he or she is competent or not, and is made for the purpose of preventing the elder or dependent adult from having contact with family, friends, or concerned persons.

(3) False imprisonment, as defined in Section 236 of the Penal Code.

(4) Physical restraint of an elder or dependent adult, for the purpose of preventing the elder or dependent adult from meeting with visitors.

Jeff Aidikoff is an elder abuse attorney in Beverly Hills, CA. He can be reached at (800) 981-5932 or jeff@aidikofflaw.com.

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