How To Report Elderly Abuse In California

Written By: William Rivers
Reviewed By: William Rivers
Published: January 30, 2023
Last updated: March 12, 2024

Abuse and neglect are serious and widespread problems for seniors over 65 in California. One in every six seniors is a victim of abuse, and many simultaneously suffer from multiple types of abuse. In California, there were over 9,000 reports of elder abuse in 2019.

Elderly abuse can take many forms, including physical, emotional, financial, and neglect. As family members, you are responsible for recognizing elder abuse and reporting any suspected cases immediately. This article will cover everything you need to know about elder abuse and how to report elder abuse in California. Read on to learn more.

Understanding Elder Abuse In California

Understanding Elder Abuse In California

California has several elder abuse laws, ranging from financial exploitation to sexual abuse. Elder abuse is broadly defined as any abusive act, whether mental, physical, or financial, that causes a state of suffering and fear for a senior victim. 

Elder abuse is typically committed by a "caretaker," who could be a family member, unlicensed or licensed nursing home staff, or a health practitioner. The most common types of elder abuse against elderly or dependent adults include: 

  • Psychological or Emotional abuse: This involves victim-blaming, insulting, frightening, intimidating, and threatening behaviour, among other things.
  • Physical abuse includes hitting, scratching, over- or under-medicating, assault, rape, and other forms of bodily harm.
  • Sexual abuse: Forced or non-consensual sexual contact with an older adult is considered elder sexual abuse.
  • Financial abuse refers to stealing money from senior individuals without their informed consent, often known as embezzlement.
  • Isolation: This refers to restricting an elderly person within their room, denying them from contacting their family or loved one or otherwise isolating them.
  • Neglect: This can include failure to provide adequate food, water, clothing, and/or medication and maintain proper hygiene for elderly people. 
  • Self-neglect: If the elders fail to meet their basic daily needs, they suffer from self-neglect. This can often lead to malnutrition and other serious health problems.
  • Abduction: Forcing an elderly person to leave their home or long-term care facility is considered abduction. 

How To Report Elderly Abuse In California

The first and most important thing to do if you suspect elder abuse and are concerned about the victim's immediate health is to call 911. Law enforcement and first responders will be able to assess the situation quickly and provide medical care to victims who require it.

You must also contact or report elder abuse to the appropriate state department or law enforcement agency.

California Adult Protective Services (APS)

Adult Protective Services is a state and county-funded program that provides help to seniors and dependent adults who are "unable to meet their own needs."

The APS will assess the individual needs of the older adult to develop a service plan. 

This may include removing the adult from their current living situation, assisting with admission to a nursing facility, and involving other agencies to protect an elderly person from an abusive environment or caregiver.

Contact the APS elder abuse hotline at 1-833-401-0832 to report abuse. Enter your zip code when prompted to connect to your county APS.

California Long Term Care Ombudsman

The Office of the State Long-Term Care Ombudsman (OSLTCO) is a government agency in charge of elder abuse investigations in long-term care facilities, nursing homes, day programs, and other care institutions.

A long-term care ombudsman works with families and nursing home residents to investigate and resolve complaints quickly. Your ombudsman can help you understand your legal rights and reach a resolution through services provided free of charge.

You can contact your local ombudsman using these resources:

California ombudsman number: 1-888-452-8609

Statewide CRISISline number: 1-800-231-4024

Attorney General's Bureau of Medi-Cal Fraud & Elder Abuse

This organization is dedicated to protecting the elderly from medical fraud and financial exploitation. It also protects children, the elderly, and those who rely on others. The bureau is divided into three divisions that investigate and prosecute reports of abuse. 

If you require assistance from the Attorney General's Bureau of Medi-Cal Fraud & Elder Abuse, you may contact them at 1-800-722-0432. Alternatively, you may submit an online elder abuse complaint form.

California Department of Health Care Services (DHCS)

The DHCS regulates In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) to provide healthcare assistance to low-income families and individuals and Medi-Cal healthcare benefits. If you suspect financial fraud by an in-home supportive service provider, please call the IHSS fraud hotline at 1-800-822-622. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Below are some of the commonly asked questions regarding elder abuse in California.

What are the five signs of elder abuse?

A loved one, a hired caregiver, or a stranger can abuse any older person. Elder abuse can occur at home, a relative's home, or an eldercare facility. Look out for these signs of abuse:

  • Seems depressed, withdrawn, or confused;
  • Isolated from friends and family;
  • Has unexplained bruises, burns, or scars;
  • Appears dirty, malnourished, dehydrated, and over- or undermedicated; and
  • Recent changes in banking statements or spending patterns.

Is elder abuse a felony in California?

Elder abuse is defined in California Penal Code 368 PC as the physical or emotional abuse, neglect, or financial exploitation of a victim 65 years of age or older. Elder abuse can be prosecuted as a misdemeanour or a felony and is punishable by up to four years in jail or prison.

What is considered emotional abuse of the elderly?

Emotional or psychological abuse refers to verbal or nonverbal behaviors that inflict anguish, mental pain, fear, or distress on an elderly person. Humiliation or disrespect, verbal and nonverbal threats, harassment, and geographical or interpersonal isolation are all considered emotional abuse of the elderly.

Protect Your Senior Loved Ones

Before placing your loved one in a care facility or hiring in-home supportive services, do extensive research online on the institution to see if it has a history of abuse or neglect.

If you suspect a relative, friend, or client is being abused, report it immediately. For further assistance in reporting elderly abuse in California, you may seek legal services for seniors in this article from Senior Strong. 

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William Rivers is an editor with a master’s degree in Human Services Counseling at Maine State University. He has more than 20 years of experience working in the senior healthcare industry.
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