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Both federal and state laws address elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation, but state law is the primary source of sanctions, remedies and protections related to elder abuse. A few federal laws relate specifically to elder abuse and neglect, but none of these laws provides broad regulatory mechanisms for state or local programs established specifically to support services for victims of elder abuse.
Some examples of federal laws applicable to elder abuse include:
States address elder abuse in multiple statutory areas, including:
Statutory schemes vary widely, and in most states, the laws related to elder abuse may be embedded in several code sections. The major categories of state laws addressing elder abuse include the following:
Adult Protective Services
Adult protective services (APS) or elder protective services (EPS) statutes that authorize and regulate the provision of services in cases of elder abuse are available in all states. Some states have both EPS and APS statutes, while some states have more than one APS law. These statutes set up systems for reporting and investigating suspected elder abuse and for delivering services to victims.
Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program and Institutional Abuse Laws
All states also have statutes establishing a Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program, with programs that advocate for the rights, safety and other interests of long-term care facility residents. Programs typically are administered under a state or local office on aging.
All states have general criminal statutes on assault & battery, sexual assault, theft, fraud and other offenses that can be applied in elder abuse cases. Many states have specific crimes against family members (Texas and Virginia), and a few states provide increased penalties for victimizing older adults (California, Connecticut, Indiana, and Florida). California Penal Code 368 specifies elder abuse as one or more separate crimes.
Civil remedies for particular types of elder abuse are available in most states under statutory and case law. All states provide civil remedies for domestic abuse, for example.
Probate Codes or Trusts and Estates Statutes
Most states address elder abuse and neglect under probate laws, trusts and estates laws, or both. All states provide protections for adults with some impairment of capacity through guardianship of the person, guardianship of financial matters and or property, and conservatorship. These laws are designed to protect the safety and financial interests of elderly, disabled or vulnerable adults.
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DISCLAIMER: This article is not a substitute for legal advice and in no way constitutes legal advice or gives rise to an attorney-client relationship. Adequate counsel is fact-dependent and requires independent analysis and inquiry specific to your situation and circumstances. This article is simply meant as a guide to explain in general and brief terms certain issues and serves to provide general information. Contact O'Brien & Zehnder Law Firm at 916-714-8200 if you require legal help or wish to seek legal advice for your specific legal issue(s).