Older adults may depend on others to manage their resources and provide them with care on a day-to-day basis. They may lack the same legal rights as other adults if they have certain health issues. They may also have less physical strength and healing ability than younger adults. All of those factors can leave them vulnerable to abuse by others.
Both family members and professionals can potentially engage in elder abuse that can harm someone, put their life at risk or substantially reduce their quality of life. Those concerned about an older adult can intervene to protect them from elder abuse. Doing so generally requires an understanding of what constitutes elder abuse.
Elder abuse typically involves the risk of injury or death
Intentionally causing unjustifiable pain or mental anguish to an elder adult is the definition of elder abuse established in California state law. Those who willfully harm an older adult or cause them mental anguish could be subject to legal action, especially if the situation could cause lasting injury or death.
Simply allowing harm to the health of an older adult can also constitute elder abuse by someone in a guardian or caregiver role. Endangering someone’s health, causing willful injury or placing someone in a situation where harm is likely can constitute elder abuse. Any acts of physical violence, like hitting and kicking an older adult, could constitute abuse. So could the failure to meet someone’s needs when they are dependent, such as denying them food, refusing them medical care or ignoring hygiene needs.
Abuse can also involve unwanted touching and acts of physical intimacy. There is also emotional or mental abuse to consider. People who degrade, insult, threaten or gaslight an older adult have potentially committed acts of elder abuse. Even financial abuse, such as stealing from an older adult, could constitute actionable elder abuse.
Some forms of elder abuse might lead to lawsuits against care facilities, while others could lead to prosecution. Both older adults subject to mistreatment and their family members can act to seek justice when elder abuse causes serious harm. Being able to recognize elder abuse, and seeking legal guidance accordingly, can help families be better advocates for vulnerable older loved ones overall.