WHAT IS ELDER ABUSE?
Elder abuse is the mistreatment of an elderly person by someone
known to the senior. This includes financial abuse, physical abuse,
emotional abuse, and neglect. Elder abuse happens everywhere – in
poor, middle class, and upper-income households. It is a problem that
has no demographic or ethnic boundaries. Because family members or
close friends of the senior are often the culprits of financial,
physical, and emotional abuse, this abuse is often difficult to
discover and to accept.
FINANCIAL ABUSE is the mismanagement of money, property or
other assets belonging to a senior. Anyone who has access to your
personal information, such as bank account numbers, credit cards,
checkbooks, etc. can potentially steal from you. Be careful about whom
you trust. You can take steps to protect yourself from financial
- Cancel all credit cards you are not using.
- Never keep the Personal Identification Number (PIN) for your ATM
card in your wallet. If you need to write it down, be sure to keep
it in a secure place.
- Never give your credit or ATM cards to a family member or a
friend to buy things for you. Whenever possible, give them cash or
reimburse them with a check.
- Try to balance your checkbook or have a trusted family member or
friend do it for you on a monthly basis. Immediately inform your
bank or credit card companies of any activity that does not appear
to be your own.
- Report financial abuse to Adult Protective Services by
calling 1(877) 4-R-SENIORS or by calling your local police department.
When to suspect you or someone you know may be a victim of
- You detect unusual activity in your bank accounts – such as
numerous withdrawals or attempts to withdraw a large sum of money.
- A friend or caretaker asks you for a loan and tells you to keep
it a secret. A need for secrecy can be a warning sign of an intent
not to repay the loan.
- You see your bills piling up when payment is the responsibility
of your caretaker.
- You see changes in your will or power of attorney though you are
unable or unwilling to make such changes.
- You lack amenities, such as clothing and grooming items,
although you have the means to pay for these items.
PHYSICAL ABUSE is the infliction of bodily injuries on an
elder. Seniors or their loved ones should immediately report physical
abuse to law enforcement by calling "911" or Adult
Protective Services by calling 1(877) 4-R-SENIORS. Keep a
list of emergency numbers you can call in the event that someone in
your home physically abuses you.
When to suspect a senior may be a victim of physical abuse:
- Obvious lacerations, abrasions, fractures, welts, bruises,
discoloration, or swelling
- Pain or tenderness on mere touch
- Burns caused by cigarettes, ropes or other bonds
- Detached retina, bleeding, or scalp wound
- Elder becomes withdrawn or protective of the suspect
EMOTIONAL ABUSE can result from verbal assaults, threats,
intimidation, humiliation, or isolation and can cause mental and
emotional trauma. Verbally threatening and abusive treatment, and
other acts of rage are not acceptable behavior, even if carried out by
a son or daughter or family friend. You can report such psychological
abuse to Adult Protective Services or to the police.
Understand that such intimidating and hurtful conduct is
not your fault.
When to suspect a senior may be a victim of emotional abuse:
- Appears depressed and not himself/herself
- Unusual mood changes and anger
- Fear of being touched or approached by others
- Seems withdrawn and unusually introverted or afraid
NEGLECT is the failure by a caregiver to provide the senior
with basic needs. This includes food, shelter, medical assistance,
personal hygiene products, heat or air conditioning. Such neglect
should be reported. Adult children, especially unemployed or those
with a criminal history, may neglect their elder parents. Be
leery of giving an adult child with a history of emotional or criminal
problems too much control over your money or your life.
When to suspect a senior may be a victim of neglect:
- The elder feels isolated by a caretaker and is unable to speak
freely or spend time with others.
- A caretaker fails to assist with personal hygiene or in
providing clothing for the elder.
- A caregiver has a history of violence, or alcohol or drug abuse.
- The senior shows signs of dehydration or malnutrition.
- The elder has sudden weight loss.
- The elder does not have necessities, including eyeglasses,
dentures, prostheses, hearing aids, canes, walkers, or other
Another form of neglect is self-neglect. Self-neglect is the
inability of an elder who does not have a caretaker to provide for
himself/herself. Self-neglect is NOT a crime. However, seniors can
receive services and assistance from Adult Protective Services.
Important: Often victims of elder abuse can be abused
in more ways than one. For example, an abuser may hit the elder
(physical abuse) in order to convince him or her to turn over money to
the abuser (financial abuse).
Elder Abuse Section
Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office
201 North Figueroa Street, 12th Floor
Los Angeles, CA. 90012
Phone (213) 580-3383
© 1994-2015 Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office. All Rights Reserved.
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