Unfortunately, elder abuse is not uncommon. According to the National Council on Aging, approximately one out of every ten people in the United States, ages 60 and above, have experienced some form of elder abuse. Some estimates range as high as five million elders who are abused each year. One study estimated that only 1 in 24 cases of abuse are reported to authorities.
If you have witnessed or suspected elder abuse, you may be wondering, Is it mandatory to report elder abuse in California? If the question was asking whether or not you should report elder abuse, the answer is yes. It’s always the right thing to do, but that doesn’t always mean you have to. However, there are several situations in which the observer must report the abuse.
What Is Elder Abuse?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “elder abuse is an intentional act or failure to act that causes or creates a risk of harm to an older adult.” An older adult, or “elder,” is someone age 60 or older. The abuser is generally a caregiver or someone trusted by the elder. Types of elder abuse can include:
- Physical abuse,
- Emotional abuse,
- Financial exploitation, and
- Sexual abuse
Many cases of elder abuse go unreported. This is often because the individual being abused is embarrassed or unable to communicate the abuse.
Signs of Elder Abuse
The signs of elder abuse can look different for each person. The biggest thing to look for is a change in behavior. Here are some specific indicators that may be cause for concern:
- Being depressed, withdrawn, or confused;
- Being isolated from friends and family;
- Having unexplained injuries like bruises, scars, or burns;
- Appearing unkempt and lacking proper hygiene;
- Being dehydrated or malnourished;
- Being over or under-medicated;
- Exhibiting changes to banking or spending habits; or
- Having bedsores or preventable conditions.
It is crucial to monitor these types of changes. Encourage your loved one to talk about things and people in their life so that you have a better idea of what is going on and who they are around.
Is It Mandatory to Report Elder Abuse in California?
Under California law, there are a number of situations where reporting elder abuse is mandatory. One of the biggest takeaways is that anyone who has assumed any sort of responsibility for the care or custody of an elder, with or without compensation, must report any suspected abuse. This includes nursing home facilities and employees, medical staff, clergy, and even relatives caring for an elderly adult. If a mandated reporter fails to report the abuse, they can be held legally responsible for its continuance.
Statute of Limitations for Reporting Elder Abuse
According to California law, the statute of limitations is four years. For negligence claims, which include personal injury, the limitations period is two years after the wrongful or neglectful act occurred.
Reporting Elder Abuse
Law enforcement is to be called immediately if physical harm has occurred. Here are some other ways of reporting elder abuse:
Each California county has an APS office. The APS organization investigates the abuse of dependent adults and elderly living in private homes, hotels, apartments, or inpatient hospitals.
These representatives handle reports of abuse in nursing homes, assisted living facilities, adult day programs, and day health centers as a part of the California Department of Aging.
This division investigates and prosecutes elder abuse and Medi-Cal fraud committed by care facility employees, Medi-Cal providers, operators of residential care facilities, and others caring for people using Medi-Cal.
Financial institutions have a specific form that must be completed if financial elder abuse is suspected. These institutions should be trained to spot the signs of financial exploitation.
Is it mandatory to report elder abuse in California? The answer is probably yes if the person who becomes aware of the abuse has any sort of responsibility to care for the older person. If a mandated reporter knew or suspected abuse and did not report it, they may be legally liable for the abuse that occurred. The team at Silva Injury Law understands how sensitive elder abuse cases can be. We are here to walk you through the process, help you understand your legal rights, and bring abusers to justice. Contact us for your free case consultation.
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