What Is Elder Abuse?

The law defines elder abuse as “physical abuse, neglect, financial abuse, abandonment, isolation, abduction or other treatment with resulting in physical harm or pain or mental suffering, or the deprivation by a care custodian of goods or services that are necessary to avoid physical harm or mental suffering.” (Welfare & Institutions Code, Section 15610.07 and in Penal Code 368) “Elders” are defined as persons 65 years of age or older.


Physical Abuse: Assault, battery, sexual assault, battery or rape, prolonged or continual deprivation of food or water, or use of physical or chemical restraints for punishment, convenience or without or beyond the scope of the doctor’s order.

Neglect: The failure to exercise that degree of care that a reasonable person in a care providing capacity would exercise such as failure to assist in personal hygiene, provision of food, clothing or shelter, provision of medical care, or to protect from health and safety hazards or to prevent malnutrition or dehydration.

Note: This includes self-neglect; one of the most common forms of abuse occurring in community settings.

Financial Abuse: The illegal or unauthorized taking or using of an elder’s funds, property or assets by an individual or entity.

Mental Suffering: Fear, agitation, confusion, severe depression or other forms of emotional distress that is brought about by threats, harassment, or other forms of intimidating behavior.

Isolation: The intentional preventing or restraining an elder from receiving mail, telephone calls or visitors.

elder care law

Physical Abuse Indicators:

  • Bruises and discoloration on inner arm/thigh, thumb/finger prints, choke marks, presence of old and new bruises in the same place, different colored bruises, and suspicious shapes caused by coins, cords or belts used as restraints.
  • Scratches, cuts, pinch marks, cigarette burns, rope burns, and fractures.
  • Physical injury on head, scalp or face, e.g. black eye.
  • Bruises around breast or genital areas, unexplained vaginal or anal bleeding, or torn, stained and bloody under clothing.
  • Physical restraint use not ordered by a doctor and used for the convenience of care provider, e.g., persons tied in bed, strapped into wheelchairs while slumping over or sitting out of alignment, etc.
  • Drowsiness, dry and cracked lips, drooling, vacant stare from over- medication.

Neglect Indicators:

  • Poor hygiene, e.g., unkempt appearance, stained or torn clothes.
  • Dirty or uncut finger or toe nails.
  • Inadequate dental hygiene.
  • Signs of feces on resident or in bathroom and smell of urine.
  • Person lying in urine or feces.
  • Unexplained weight loss, malnutrition and dehydration.
  • Persons left unattended on toilet.
  • Bruising or fractures from rough handling or frequent falls due to lack of attention.
  • Bedsores on buttocks, heels, elbows, shoulder blades, etc.
  • Staffing problems in care facilities lead to neglect, e.g., limited number of staff on nights and weekends, staff inadequately trained or experienced for assignment, and high staff turnover.


Behavioral Abuse Indicators:

  • Fear
  • Helplessness/Resignation
  • Implausible Stories
  • Anger
  • Withdrawal
  • Hesitation to Talk Openly
  • Confusion or Disorientation
  • Denial
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Agitation Non-Responsiveness

Relational Abuse Indicators:

  • The elder is not given the opportunity to speak for him/herself.
  • Family or care providers restrict activity, outside contacts.
  • Family or care providers do not allow the elder to be alone with anyone.
  • Family and/or care providers provide conflicting reports on condition of the elder.
  • There are suspicions of substance abuse by caregiver.

If you are a concerned relative or friend of an elderly person that you believe is suffering from elder abuse in the Los Angeles area, we’d like to hear from you. Contact us online or call us at 818-756-2000 to set up a FREE consultation to discuss your legal options.