Elder abuse is absolutely abhorrent, and is something that should never occur. Unfortunately, we know that this type of abuse is not uncommon in this state and throughout the country. As our population ages, we see that instances of reported elder abuse also grow. It is crucial to report elder abuse to the appropriate authorities. Reporting this type of abuse not only protects the person currently suffering, but it can also help protect others in the future from sustaining abuse at the hands of the same person. It is also a good idea to speak with a California elder abuse attorney so that they can help guide you through the process. Here, we want to discuss what happens when you report elder abuse in the state of California.
Mandatory Reporting of Elder Abuse Through the Elder Justice Act
Under the Elder Justice Act (EJA), employees and administrators at various types of “long-term care facilities” are required to report elder abuse. This includes:
- Nursing homes
- Skilled nursing facilities
- Impatient hospices
- Intermediate care facilities for mentally disabled individuals
Any long-term care facility that receives at least $10,000 in federal funds over a preceding year has specific requirements about reporting elder abuse. Before the EJA, federal law only required the reporting of elder abuse if the abuse pertained to acts committed inside a facility. Then, the law only said that individuals had to report their suspicions to facility administrators and that reports were made “in accordance with state law.”
Now, the EJA requires that any “covered individual” report suspicions of crimes against a long-term facility resident to law enforcement officials as well as the Secretary of Health and Human Services.
In the state of California, every county has an Adult Protective Services (APS) agency to help with adults 65 years of age and older as well as any dependent adult age 16 through 64 who is disabled, when these individuals are unable to meet their own needs or are victims of abuse or neglect. Any individual who suspects elder abuse can contact APS by calling 1-833-401-0832 and entering their zip code to be connected with the APS office in their county, seven days a week, 24 hours a day.
When an abuse report is made to APS in California, officials will respond to reports of known or suspected abuse or neglect, conduct an investigation, and arrange for various services available through community agencies.
If a person discovers that an elderly individual is being abused and the situation is an emergency, they need to call 911 and involve law enforcement officials who can ensure the safety of the elderly individual until longer-term services can be arranged.
Penalties for the Perpetrators of Elder Abuse
When we look at Penal Code 368 PC, we can see that California defines elder abuse as the physical or emotional abuse, financial exploitation, or neglect of a person who is 65 years of age or older. Those suspected of elder abuse could face a misdemeanor or felony charge, punishable by up to four years in prison.
The determination of whether or not to charge a person with a misdemeanor or a felony for elder abuse will depend on the facts and circumstances surrounding each particular situation. This could include the severity of the abuse and whether or not the abuse was willful and intentional. In addition to a possible prison sentence of up to four years, perpetrators of elder abuse can face fines ranging from $6,000 to $10,000 as well as a requirement to pay restitution to the victim.
Under the EJA, long-term care facilities that fail to report crimes against an elderly person in their facility can face a fine of up to $300,000.