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Elder Abuse

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Elder Abuse & Neglect

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One of the fastest growing – and most abused – demographics in today’s society is the aging population. The National Council on Aging (NCOA) reports that about one in 10 Americans over the age of 60 have experienced some form of elder abuse, but only one in 14 occurrences is reported to authorities. Abusers are both men and women, with almost 60 percent of them family members.

The amount of elder abuse taking place has reached crisis proportions and will likely escalate as baby boomers move past the senior citizen mark. Sadly, it’s a sensitive issue that is more often overlooked than addressed and can be difficult to expose without a strong support system. Elderly abuse can range from physical to financial and happens in the home, over the phone and in care facilities. This heartbreaking act also leaves victims helpless to suffer pain, shame and fear without knowing who they can trust or what will happen next.

Do You Suspect Elder Abuse?

Hurting or taking advantage of vulnerable people in any way is a terrible criminal act that occurs far too often.

If you suspect or have seen the signs of elder or dependent abuse, the experienced and compassionate lawyers at Hodes Milman Liebeck are here to help. Please call us today at (949) 640-8222 to talk about your concerns. All calls are 100 percent confidential and without cost or obligation.

What is Elder Abuse?

Elder abuse is a civil or criminal act where theft, physical harm, pain or mental suffering is inflicted upon older individuals most often age 60 and older. This type of abuse is also inflicted on dependent, disabled adults and incapacitated children. In any form, it’s a cruelty towards defenseless, often frail victims who are unable to protect themselves or even ask for help.

Where does elder or dependent abuse occur?

  • Nursing homes, memory or assisted living facilities
  • Board and care
  • Elder victim’s home
  • Family member homes
  • During transport, treatment or exams

Who are the most common abusers?

  • Family members
  • Home-based caregivers
  • Nurses and doctors
  • Telephone scam artists or dishonest neighbors
  • Other attendants who spend time alone with the elder

What are the Most Common Types of Elder Abuse?

Elder abuse can occur within minutes after the victim is left alone with a supervising person. The effects are staggering, with statistics showing that elderly abuse victims have a 300 percent higher chance of dying than someone who hasn’t been abused.

Common types of elder abuse include:

Physical Abuse

Physical Abuse is any type of force that causes pain, harm or impairment to an elder individual. Since elderly individuals are particularly fragile, even the slightest bit of physical abuse can cause visible and significant damage. It often involves striking the elderly person whether with or without an object, but it can also be done by force feeding or intentionally using a tight or firm grip on the individual. Seemingly minor physical contact can cause bruising, and when it is done with aggression or intent to harm it is considered abuse.

Examples of physical elder abuse can include but are not limited to:

  • Burning
  • Hitting
  • Shoving
  • Scratching
  • Biting
  • Kicking
  • Slapping
  • Shaking
  • Inappropriate use of drugs
  • Inappropriate restraint

Sexual Abuse

Sexual Abuse is a form of physical abuse that includes rape and molestation. It takes place when an elder is forced or coerced into having nonconsensual sexual contact. The majority of victims are females suffering from some type of memory disorder. Sexual abuse can be hard to prove because victims are often not able to communicate effectively due to mental complications such as dementia. Elderly victims of sexual abuse are also less likely to report it and sometimes cannot adequately identify their perpetrator or what happened to them.

An overwhelming amount of abuse takes place in assisted living facilities like nursing homes and the majority of the time, the perpetrator is the caregiver.

Types of sexual abuse can include but are not limited to:

  • Unwanted touching
  • Coerced nudity
  • Sexually explicit photographing
  • Molestation
  • Sodomy
  • Rape

Physical Restraint

Physical restraint occurs when an elderly person is tied to a bed, chair or table or forcibly held down. In California, restraints on residents of long-term care facilities is illegal because it often entails more risks than benefits. Residents can’t be restrained without their consent, except in emergencies or doctor’s order.

Chemical Restraint

Chemical restraint is the overuse of antipsychotics to control an elderly person’s behavior in place of individualized care.


Neglect involves the failure to provide personal hygiene, clothing, shelter, food or medical care; to protect from health and safety hazards or prevent malnutrition or dehydration. By far the greatest form of abuse, elderly neglect has serious consequences for seniors, who are typically already suffering from varied health complications. Neglect may not be intentional in all cases, but the elderly individual almost always suffers from it. It is an unfortunate reality that many assisted living facilities are severely understaffed and underfunded and hire inexperienced members who fail to administer basic care to residents.

There are four main types of elderly neglect:

  • Medical Neglect – the staff does not properly attend to the elderly person’s medical concerns or conditions, such as immediate care for diabetes, infections, open wounds or bed sores
  • Neglecting Basic Needs – the staff fails to provide adequate food or water for the elderly person or does not maintain clean, safe and respectable living conditions
  • Neglecting Personal Hygiene – the elderly person is not given enough assistance with bathing, brushing their teeth, keeping a clean living space, laundry or other hygienic needs
  • Isolation & Emotional Neglect – the staff ignores the elderly resident and does not allow them to interact with other residents or disparages them, including yelling at the resident or being short tempered with him or herThe most common indicators of neglect include bed sores, dehydration and malnutrition, though many signs of abuse are not so easily observable. For this reason, neglect can be hard to detect.

Abandonment & Isolation

Abandonment and isolation are forms of neglect when an elderly person is prevented from having contact with others, or is locked in a room alone without food or other essentials.

Mental or Emotional Abuse

Mental or emotional abuse inflicts pain, distress or anguish on the elder in a nonverbal way. When this happens, the elderly person is often treated like a child and kept from friends, family or other activities they enjoy. Ignoring the elder or depriving him or her of relationships is also a form of emotional abuse. This type of abuse is also referred to as psychological abuse.

Mental or emotional abuse involves:

  • Yelling
  • Ignoring the victim
  • Deprivation of human interaction
  • Name calling
  • Verbal assaults
  • Threatening
  • Intimidating
  • Demeaning
  • Ridiculing
  • Blaming

Financial Abuse

Financial Abuse can occur anywhere, with anyone – a neighbor, family member, hired caregiver or a nursing home attendant. It is often done by swindling money out of the elder and can involve personal bank accounts, credit cards, checks or even the deed on a home or family trust. Financial abuse can destroy a victim’s life savings and future.

There are a number of ways financial abuse of the elderly is done, including:

  • Stealing money
  • Promising care only in exchange for money, property or possessions
  • Unauthorized credit card charges
  • Forging their signature on checks or other documents
  • Forcing them to sign a deed, will or power of attorney granting the perpetrator inheritance
  • Forcing them to sign documents they have not read or do not understand
  • Telemarketing scams that use exaggerated claims, deception and scare tactics to win a sale
  • Overcharging for products or services the elderly person needs

The elderly are often the target of financial abuse because they:

  • Are unfamiliar with technology or have trouble managing their finances
  • Tend to have more wealth than younger adults
  • In poor health condition and the perpetrator expects they will not live long enough to pursue legal action
  • Have predictable patterns that the perpetrator can predict, such as when checks arrive in the mail
  • May have a disability that requires them to depend on others, making them vulnerableOften, the perpetrators of financial abuse are those the elder holds in their confidence, especially relatives.


Abduction in California involves removing an elderly victim from the state when the victim doesn’t have the capacity to consent.

Healthcare Fraud

Healthcare Fraud can involve another individual using an elderly person’s insurance or a medical professional who overbills for services.

Wrongful Death

Wrongful Death can occur anytime the neglect or abuse of an elderly person results in death. If it occurs in a nursing home, both the home and caregiver can be liable under California wrongful death laws.

Are You Aware of an Elder Abuse Situation?

Reporting elder abuse might feel confusing and intimidating at first, but speaking up now could change a person’s life – and we are here to help. Our trusted elder and dependent abuse attorneys are only a phone call away. We will help stop the abuse, hold the abuser accountable and obtain compensation for the deserving victim.

For over 30 years, we have helped families just like you protect their loved ones. When you are ready for a private, no obligation consultation, call Hodes Milman Liebeck at (949) 640-8222.

Remember: Silence is never evidence for a lack of abuse.

What are the Challenges of Detecting Elder Abuse?

Elder abuse is often hard to detect and challenging to prove, especially when there are no outward physical signs. Many victims choose not to speak up because they believe their cries for help will go unanswered, fear retaliation from the abuser, or are too embarrassed. When the abuser is a family member, the victim may continue to suffer to protect him or her from legal consequences.

What are the Warning Signs of Elder Abuse?

The warning signs of elder abuse can sometimes be confused with those of normal aging. Because of this, it’s important to always watch for any change in your loved one’s behavior, especially when it is sudden. 

Physical Signs

  • Bruising, skin welts, wounds or unexplained cuts
  • Broken bones, sprains or joint dislocations
  • Internal injuries or bleeding
  • Painful reaction when touched
  • Genital or inner thigh pain or irritation
  • Sexually transmitted diseases
  • Difficulty walking or sitting
  • Unexplained weight loss, malnutrition, dehydration or bedsores

Behavioral Indicators

  • Agitation
  • Anger or aggressiveness
  • Anxiety
  • Confusion or disorientation
  • Defensiveness
  • Depression
  • Fear
  • Helplessness
  • Hesitation to talk openly
  • Implausible stories
  • Non-responsiveness
  • Withdrawal

Other Signs

  • Broken eyeglasses
  • Torn or bloody clothing
  • Absence of assistance, attitudes of indifference, or anger toward the elder by the family member or caregiver
  • Social isolation or restriction of activity
  • Reduced contact by telephone or other means
  • Conflicting accounts of incidents by the family or caregivers
  • Substance abuse by the individual responsible for the elder care
  • Refusal by caregiver to allow visitors to see the senior alone

Intervention is Essential: How Do You Report Elder Abuse?

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), elder abuse is considered an “invisible” problem since many people fail to speak up or report abuse to the proper authorities.

In California, failing to report elder abuse when you discover it is a misdemeanor punishable by law. More importantly, it jeopardizes a person’s health and welfare. Nursing homes must follow strict government guidelines, so if the abuse happens there, the home may be held accountable for medical malpractice.

What to Do If You Suspect or Have Evidence of Elder Abuse

  1. Report it immediately, whether you are related to the victim or not – please don’t wait.
  2. Err on the side of caution even if you aren’t sure or lack hard evidence; a life may depend on it.
  3. Call 911 immediately if an individual is in imminent harm.
  4. Do all you can to stop abuse before it escalates, causing even more pain and suffering to a defenseless victim.

Who Should You Call to Report Elder Abuse?

Each California county has an Adult Protective Services (APS) agency that investigates abuse reports for the elderly over the age of 65 and disabled dependents between the ages of 18 and 64. The APS also provides referrals to other agencies for information on Elder and Dependent Adult Abuse Reporting laws.

You can contact one of the following to file the complaint, or contact Hodes Milman Liebeck at (949) 640-8222 for assistance:

  • Adult Protective Services Office
  • State of California – Health and Human Services Agency
  • State of California – Department of Public Health
  • Local Law Enforcement
  • County’s District Attorney’s Office
  • California Department of Aging
  • Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program
  • Office of State Attorney General
  • Bureau of Medi-Cal Fraud and Elder Abuse

What Happens After You Report Elder Abuse?

In most cases, an investigator will be assigned to your case. As the person reporting the abuse, you have rights, such as remaining anonymous or having an official accompany you to the facility where the abuse occurred. Each case will vary depending on the circumstances. If you have additional questions about the process, you can speak with an experienced elder abuse lawyer today by calling Hodes Milman Liebeck at (949) 640-8222. We can answer any questions you have about the reporting process.

Hodes Milman Liebeck Can Help

The lawyers at Hodes Milman Liebeck have helped secure justice for elderly individuals and their families for over 30 years. We are on your side and will fight to ensure the abusers are held accountable for their actions in civil or criminal court, as well as secure potential compensation for the deserving victim’s pain, suffering and loss.

  • Have you already notified the authorities but are dissatisfied with the investigation of the abuse? We can help with that.
  • Is the abused elder protected and safe? We can help ensure proper action is taken to protect the victim from continuing abuse.

Every human being has a right to a safe environment, and your elderly loved one is no exception. At Hodes Milman Liebeck, we offer supportive, strategic representation in a trusted, compassionate environment. Reach out to our experienced elder abuse attorneys at any time by calling (949) 640-8222 for a free, confidential, no-obligation consultation.

When you’re ready, we want to help you get started in the right direction.

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For more than 30 years, Hodes Milman Liebeck has provided families and individuals experienced, trusted and compassionate legal representation when they've been injured by another's carelessness or negligence. As a team of personal injury and product liability attorneys, Hodes Milman Liebeck provides focused expertise to build a strategic case against negligent, injurious and willful offenders.

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For their support of the Veterans Legal Institute, Managing Partners Jeff Milman, Dan Hodes and Kevin Liebeck as well as Associate Gabe Houston received special recognition from the State of California, Congress and the United States. The firm has fought relentlessly to protect those who have served the country in matters involving medical malpractice, medical negligence and federal... Read More