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Are there laws against elder abuse?

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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:

  • Elder Justice Act of 2009 - enacted in March 2010 as part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (H.R. 3590; P.L. 111-148).
  • The Older Americans Act (42 U.S.C. 3001 et seq.) - contains definitions of elder abuse and authorizes federal funding for the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA).
  • Violence Against Women Act - established federal domestic violence crimes that may be applied in cases of elder abuse.
  • Elder Abuse Victims Act of 2009 (H.R. 448, S. 1821) - would authorize federal grant funding for training personnel handling elder justice-related matters.

States address elder abuse in multiple statutory areas, including:

  • adult protective services laws,
  • criminal codes,
  • probate and trusts,
  • estates codes,
  • family law,
  • civil remedies.

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.

Criminal Codes

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

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.

For quality legal representation, please contact our personal injury attorneys of the Elk Grove-based O'Brien & Zehnder Law Firm by calling 1-800-722-4176 or send us an email and someone from our office will be in touch with you shortly.

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).