- Abuse of elderly citizens is a growing issue in California. According to Elder Abuse Daily (eadaily.com), approximately 160,000 cases of elder and nursing home abuse occur each year in Los Angeles County, accounting for about 25 percent of the state average of cases. The three primary forms of elderly abuse are physical, emotional and financial exploitation. Several national and state laws protect the elderly, provide guidance about reporting the crimes, and outline punishment for the abusers.
The Nursing Home Reform Act
- According to the California Department of Aging, people living in long-term care environments are vulnerable to abuse because of their physical and mental frailty, and dependency on others for personal and medical care. The Nursing Home Reform Act (NHRA), which President Ronald Reagan signed into law in 1987, was the first major revision of the federal standards for nursing home care since the Medicare and Medicaid in 1965. The NHRA and California state law both recognize the rights of elderly and dependent individuals and explain that those residents “have the right to be free from abuse.”
The NHRA entitles all residents to quality of life in a caring environment, improving or maintaining their physical and mental health. That includes freedom from neglect, abuse and mishandling of their personal or financial property. The law describes neglect and abuse as “criminal acts,” no matter where they occur. The document also points out that nursing home residents “do not surrender their rights to protection from criminal acts when they enter a facility.”
The Older Californians Act
- The Mello-Granlund Older Californians Act (OCA), established in 1996, outlines the rights of elderly citizens and provides structured guidelines for community involvement and elder abuse prevention.
The Older Americans Act (OAA), passed by Congress in 1965, requires representatives called “ombudsmen” to serve long-term care residents, 60 years or older, and maintain an awareness of their treatment. The OAA is a United States code and applies to every state. California law also requires ombudsmen to receive and review allegations and suspicions of elderly abuse.
Welfare and State Penal Codes
- The Welfare and Institutions Code (Chapter 11, Elder Abuse and Dependent Adult Abuse Civil Protection Act, Sections 15630); and California State Penal Code (Section 368) were both established to help protect elderly citizens and their rights.
An EADACPA claim of abuse is a civil action and includes physical abuse, neglect, financial abuse, abandonment, isolation or other destructive treatment. Elder abuse protection applies to anyone over 65 years of age, or a dependent adult between the ages of 16 and 64 who cannot physically or mentally care for themselves.
The Penal Code reads: “The Legislature finds and declares that crimes against elders and dependent adults are deserving of special consideration and protection, not unlike the special protections provided for minor children, because elders and dependent adults may be confused, on various medications, mentally or physically impaired, or incompetent, and therefore less able to protect themselves, to understand or report criminal conduct, or to testify in court proceedings on their own behalf.”