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July 12, 2023

Loved One Experiencing Elder Abuse in California? Know Your Rights in 90 Seconds

Legally reviewed by: Jessica Anvar Stotz, JD, MBA

Updated on: 9/9/2023

Short explanation: California Penal Code 368 makes it illegal to harm or neglect individuals aged 65 and older, defining such actions as elder abuse and subject to criminal penalties.

Elder abuse in California is primarily defined by the Elder Abuse and Dependent Adult Civil Protection Act (EADACPA).

This act, codified in the Welfare and Institutions Code sections 15600-15675, provides legal protections and remedies for victims of elder abuse and establishes guidelines for reporting, investigations, and intervention in cases of abuse against older adults or dependent adults.

CA Elder Abuse at a Glance

Element of Elder Abuse California Definition
Age of Victims Elder abuse pertains to individuals aged 65 and older, or dependent adults aged 18 to 64 with physical or mental limitations.
Types of Abuse Elder abuse encompasses physical, emotional, financial, neglect, and sexual abuse, as well as abandonment and isolation.
Perpetrators Perpetrators can be caregivers, family members, or anyone who intentionally or negligently harms or exploits an elderly or dependent adult.
Reporting Obligations Certain professionals, like healthcare workers and law enforcement, are mandated reporters and must report suspected elder abuse.
Legal Penalties Those found guilty of elder abuse in California can face criminal charges and civil penalties, including fines and imprisonment.
Protection and Support Various agencies and organizations in California provide support and resources for elder abuse victims, including Adult Protective Services (APS).
Legal Framework California law, including the Elder Abuse and Dependent Adult Civil Protection Act (EADACPA), defines and addresses elder abuse.

Your Rights as a Californian Explained

Right Description
Right to Be Free from Abuse Elders in California have the fundamental right to be free from physical, emotional, financial, or other forms of abuse, neglect, or exploitation.
Right to Safety and Protection Elders have the right to live in a safe environment, including nursing homes and assisted living facilities, and to receive protection from any form of harm or abuse.
Right to Dignity and Respect Elders have the right to be treated with dignity, respect, and courtesy by caregivers, family members, and others involved in their care.
Right to Be Informed Elders have the right to receive accurate and understandable information about their health, care, and services.
Right to Make Decisions Competent elders have the right to make their own decisions about their healthcare, finances, living arrangements, and other aspects of their lives, including the right to refuse treatment.
Right to Privacy Elders have the right to privacy, including the confidentiality of their personal and medical information, unless they choose to share it or it’s required for their care.
Right to Advocacy and Representation Elders have the right to have an advocate or representative (e.g., family member, attorney, ombudsman) to help protect their rights and interests if they are unable to do so themselves.
Right to Report Abuse Elders have the right to report abuse or suspected abuse to the appropriate authorities, such as Adult Protective Services or law enforcement, without fear of retaliation.
Right to Access Services and Resources Elders have the right to access community services and resources that support their physical, emotional, and financial well-being.
Right to Participate in Care Planning Elders have the right to participate in the planning of their care and to be informed about their treatment options, including the risks and benefits.
Right to Refuse Treatment Elders have the right to refuse medical treatment, including life-sustaining treatment, as long as they are deemed competent to make such decisions.
Right to Family and Social Contacts Elders have the right to maintain contact with family members, friends, and social networks unless doing so would be contrary to their best interests or safety.
Right to Prompt Resolution of Concerns Elders have the right to have their concerns and complaints addressed promptly and appropriately, with access to a grievance process if necessary.
Right to Legal Protection Elders have the right to legal protection and recourse if their rights are violated or if they are subjected to elder abuse. This includes the right to seek restraining orders or legal action against abusers.

It’s important to note that these rights are protected under California law, and elder abuse is taken very seriously in the state. If you suspect or are aware of elder abuse, it’s crucial to report it to the appropriate authorities for immediate intervention and protection of the elder’s rights and safety.

Overview of California Elder Abuse Laws for Victims

California Penal Code § 368 Establishes criminal penalties for elder abuse, including physical abuse, financial exploitation, and neglect, which can lead to imprisonment, fines, or both.
California Welfare and Institutions Code § 15610.07 Defines elder abuse to include physical abuse, financial abuse, neglect, emotional abuse, abandonment, and other forms of harm.
California Welfare and Institutions Code § 15610.27 Defines an elder as a person aged 65 or older, establishing the scope of protection for elderly individuals.
California Welfare and Institutions Code § 15657 Allows elder abuse victims to seek civil remedies, including restraining orders and compensatory damages from perpetrators.
California Health and Safety Code § 1430-1433.8 Encompasses the California Residents’ Bill of Rights, protecting the rights of elderly residents in long-term care facilities, ensuring they receive appropriate care and freedom from abuse.
California Welfare and Institutions Code § 9701-9703 Establishes the Ombudsman Program, advocating for the rights and wellbeing of residents in long-term care facilities.
California Probate Code § 15600-15675 Addresses financial abuse of elderly or dependent adults, allowing victims to recover assets misappropriated through undue influence or fraud.
California Family Code § 6211 Permits victims of elder abuse to obtain domestic violence restraining orders against their abusers.
California Family Code § 3040-3049 Addresses child custody and visitation issues when elder abuse is involved.
California Civil Code § 3345 Enhances damages for elder or dependent adult victims in cases of financial abuse.
California Civil Code § 15610.30 Defines elder neglect, further expanding the scope of protections for elderly individuals.

California Elder Abuse Laws for Employers at a Glance

California Welfare and Institutions Code § 15630 Imposes a duty on certain professionals to report suspected elder abuse to the appropriate authorities.
California Welfare and Institutions Code § 15633 Requires elder care facilities, including nursing homes, to report suspected abuse to the California Department of Public Health.
California Welfare and Institutions Code § 15657.5 Holds facilities liable for the abuse or neglect of elderly residents in long-term care facilities.
California Welfare and Institutions Code § 1569.17 Mandates training for employees of elder care facilities on identifying and reporting elder abuse.

Elder Abuse Evaluator Quiz

Not sure if your loved one is a victim of elder abuse? Take our short quiz to find out and begin your journey to justice for you and your family.


Significance of Elder Abuse

The issue of elder abuse is significant due to several reasons.

  • It represents a violation of basic human rights and dignity for a vulnerable population. Elder abuse can cause severe physical, emotional, and financial harm to older adults, undermining their overall well-being and quality of life.
  • Elder abuse places an enormous burden on healthcare and social service systems, leading to increased healthcare costs and utilization.
  • It also impacts families, erodes trust, and perpetuates cycles of violence.

Addressing elder abuse is crucial to protect older adults, promote social justice, and ensure the well-being and safety of the elderly population.

Most Common Forms of Elder Abuse

  1. Physical Abuse: This involves the use of physical force that results in pain, injury, impairment, or physical distress. It can include hitting, pushing, restraining, or inappropriate use of medications or restraints.
  2. Emotional or Psychological Abuse: This form of abuse involves inflicting emotional pain, distress, or anguish through verbal or nonverbal acts. It includes intimidation, humiliation, insults, threats, or isolating the individual from social activities.
  3. Financial Exploitation: Financial abuse refers to unauthorized or improper use of an older adult’s funds, assets, or property. It can involve theft, fraud, undue influence, coercion, or scams targeting vulnerable individuals.
  4. Neglect: Neglect occurs when caregivers or responsible individuals fail to provide necessary care, resulting in harm or risk of harm to the older adult. It includes inadequate provision of food, water, shelter, medical care, hygiene, or necessary assistance.
  5. Abandonment: Abandonment refers to the desertion or willful forsaking of an older adult by someone who has assumed the responsibility to provide care or support, resulting in harm or risk of harm.
  6. Sexual Abuse: Sexual abuse involves non-consensual sexual contact or exploitation of an older adult. It includes unwanted touching, sexual assault, coerced nudity, or any sexual activity carried out without the individual’s consent.
  7. Self-Neglect: Self-neglect occurs when an older adult engages in behaviors that threaten their own health, safety, or well-being. This may include failure to maintain personal hygiene, adequately manage medications, or meet basic needs.

Often, different forms of abuse can coexist and overlap. Additionally, technology-enabled abuse, such as online scams or identity theft, is becoming more prevalent as older adults increasingly engage with digital platforms.

How Common is Elder Abuse?

Determining the exact prevalence of elder abuse is challenging due to underreporting, varying definitions, and data collection methods. However, studies and estimates provide some insight into its frequency.

According to the National Council on Aging (NCOA), approximately 1 in 10 Americans aged 60 and older have experienced some form of elder abuse. Other research suggests that the prevalence rate may range from 4% to 10% globally.

Note that these figures likely underestimate the true extent of the problem, as many cases go unreported. Efforts to raise awareness, improve reporting mechanisms, and enhance data collection are ongoing to obtain more accurate statistics.

Most Common Signs Your Loved One is Being Abused

Recognizing the signs of elder abuse is crucial for identifying and intervening in abusive situations. The signs of elder abuse can vary depending on the form of abuse, but here are some common indicators to look out for:

Physical Abuse

  • Unexplained injuries, bruises, burns, or fractures
  • Unreasonable explanations for injuries or reluctance to seek medical care
  • Signs of restraint, such as marks from ropes or straps
  • Changes in behavior, such as appearing fearful or withdrawn

Emotional or Psychological Abuse

  • Agitation, fearfulness, or excessive crying
  • Social withdrawal or isolation
  • Unexplained changes in mood or behavior
  • Signs of depression or anxiety

Financial Exploitation

  • Sudden changes in financial situation or unexplained depletion of funds.
  • Missing personal belongings or valuable items.
  • Unauthorized or suspicious use of the older adult’s assets or credit cards.
  • Changes to legal or financial documents without the individual’s consent.


  • Poor personal hygiene, unclean living conditions, or inadequate clothing
  • Malnutrition or dehydration
  • Untreated medical conditions or lack of necessary medications
  • Hazardous or unsafe living environment


  • Desertion or leaving the older adult alone without necessary care or support
  • Being left in unsafe or unfamiliar places without assistance or resources

Sexual Abuse

  • Unexplained injuries to the genitals or breasts
  • Torn or bloody undergarments
  • Signs of anxiety, fear, or unexplained behavioral changes related to sexuality


  • Poor personal hygiene and grooming
  • Weight loss or signs of malnutrition
  • Unsafe living conditions, clutter, or hoarding
  • Neglected medical conditions or failure to follow prescribed treatments

These signs alone may not confirm elder abuse, but they can raise suspicion and warrant further investigation or intervention.

If you suspect elder abuse, it is essential to report it to the appropriate authorities or contact helplines or organizations dedicated to addressing elder abuse in your area.

Why Does Elder Abuse Often Go Unreported?

Elder abuse often goes unreported due to several factors:

  • Fear and dependency: Elderly victims may fear retaliation, loss of support, or institutionalization if they report abuse. They may rely on their abusers for basic care and support, creating a sense of dependency that can deter them from speaking out.
  • Lack of awareness: Some older adults may not be aware that they are experiencing abuse or may not recognize certain behaviors as abusive. Cognitive decline or health issues can also affect their ability to understand and report abuse.
  • Shame and embarrassment: Elderly victims may feel ashamed or embarrassed about being mistreated, particularly if the abuse involves sensitive topics like financial exploitation or sexual abuse. They may worry about how others will perceive them or fear judgment or disbelief.
  • Isolation and lack of support: Elderly individuals who are socially isolated or lack a strong support network may not have anyone to confide in or seek help from. This can further exacerbate their reluctance to report abuse.
  • Cognitive impairments: Older adults with cognitive impairments, such as dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, may have difficulty recalling or communicating incidents of abuse, making it challenging for them to report effectively.
  • Perpetrator influence: Abusers may manipulate or threaten their victims, making them feel helpless or powerless to report the abuse. They may also exert control by isolating the victim from others, further restricting their ability to seek help.
  • Lack of trust in authorities: Some older adults may have a general mistrust of authorities or the legal system, which can make them hesitant to report abuse or seek intervention.

Addressing these barriers to reporting requires community education, accessible reporting mechanisms, support services, and efforts to empower older adults to recognize and speak out against abuse.

california elder abuse law

How to Report Elder Abuse in California

If you suspect elder abuse and have concerns about the victim’s health, calling 911 is the most vital step to take. First responders and law enforcement will be able to assess the situation swiftly and offer medical assistance to those in need.

You should also report the abusive behavior to the appropriate state department or law enforcement agency with jurisdiction over that specific type of abuse or setting. Determining the correct agency or department to report elder abuse to depends on various factors, including the living situation of the senior (community, public or private facility) and in some cases, the type of abuse involved.

Reporting Abuse to the Attorney General’s Bureau of Medi-Cal Fraud & Elder Abuse

Dedicated to the protection of elderly citizens, the Attorney General’s Bureau of Medi-Cal Fraud & Elder Abuse focuses specifically on combating medical fraud and financial abuse that targets older adults.

Its mission extends beyond the elderly population, as it also strives to safeguard the well-being of children, older adults, and dependent adults who may be susceptible to various forms of abuse. To carry out its objectives effectively, the agency operates through three specialized divisions tasked with investigating and prosecuting reports of abuse.

Phone number: 1-800-722-0432

DMFEA Fraud and Abuse Complaint Form

Reporting Abuse to the California Adult Protective Services (APS)

Adult Protective Services (APS) is a program funded by the state and county, with the aim of assisting seniors and dependent adults who are unable to meet their own needs. Your local county’s adult protective services department is responsible for investigating cases involving suspected abuse.

They also cross-report instances of abuse directly to law enforcement, licensing boards, and other relevant government agencies to ensure appropriate action is taken.

The primary focus of Adult Protective Services is to assess the individual needs of the older adult and develop a service plan accordingly. This may entail relocating the adult from their current housing arrangement, arranging admittance to a facility, or involving other organizations to safeguard them from an abusive setting or caregiver.

If you have reasonable suspicion that neglect or abuse is occurring, you should contact APS. You do not need to provide proof of abuse, as APS will conduct its own investigation based on the information provided.

Phone number: 1-833-401-0832, elder abuse hotline available 24/7

Reporting Abuse to the California Long Term Care Ombudsman

The Office of the State Long-Term Care Ombudsman (OSLTCO) is a government agency responsible for overseeing investigations of elder abuse in long-term care facilities, nursing homes, day programs, and other care institutions.

A long-term care ombudsman serves as an advocate for families and residents of nursing homes, ensuring that complaints are thoroughly investigated and resolved in a timely manner. The services provided by your ombudsman are offered free of charge, aiming to support and protect the rights of individuals in long-term care settings. You can locate your county’s specific office phone number here.

California ombudsman number: 1-888-452-8609

Statewide CRISISline number: 1-800-231-4024

Reporting to the California Department of Social Services

The California Department of Social Services plays a crucial role in ensuring the safety and well-being of individuals in licensed facilities across the state. This department accepts and investigates complaints against various licensed facilities, including adult day programs and Residential Care Facilities for the Elderly (RCFEs).

If you have concerns or complaints regarding the quality of care, neglect, or abuse related to licensed adult day programs or RCFEs, you can file a complaint with the California Department of Social Services. They have the authority to investigate these complaints and take appropriate action to address any violations or deficiencies identified during the investigation process. To file a complaint, you can visit their site here.

Phone number: 1-844-538-8766

Reporting to the California Department of Public Health

The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) plays a crucial role in safeguarding the health and well-being of individuals receiving care in various healthcare settings across the state. The department accepts and investigates complaints against a range of licensed facilities, including skilled nursing facilities (SNFs), intermediate care facilities, adult day health centers, rehab centers, and acute care hospitals.

If you have concerns or complaints related to the quality of care, patient safety, or abuse pertaining to these licensed facilities, you can file a complaint with the California Department of Public Health, learn more about how to do so here.

What Not to Do When Reporting Elder Abuse

When reporting elder abuse, it is critical to proceed with caution and deliberation. Certain actions should be avoided to ensure the best possible outcome and protection for the victim, as they could hinder the investigation or jeopardize the individual’s safety. When reporting elder abuse, avoid the following:

  • Don’t confront the suspected abuser directly: Confronting the abuser without proper intervention can escalate the situation or put the victim at further risk. It’s best to leave the intervention to the appropriate authorities.
  • Don’t delay reporting: Delaying the report could allow the abuse to continue and potentially worsen the situation for the victim. Report the abuse as soon as you have reasonable suspicion or knowledge of its occurrence.
  • Don’t withhold information: Avoid withholding any relevant details or evidence that could assist in the investigation. The more information you provide, the better equipped the authorities will be to address the situation effectively.
  • Don’t rely solely on social media or public forums: While sharing information about elder abuse on social media can help raise awareness, it is not a substitute for reporting it to the appropriate authorities. Instead, focus on contacting the relevant agencies or law enforcement.
  • Don’t assume someone else will report it: If you suspect elder abuse, it is your responsibility to report it. Don’t assume that someone else will take action. By reporting the abuse, you become an advocate for the victim and play a crucial role in ensuring their safety and well-being.

Remember, reporting elder abuse requires a thoughtful and diligent approach. By avoiding these pitfalls, you can help ensure a swift and effective response to protect the victim and hold the abusers accountable.

What Happens Once Elder Abuse is Reported

When elder abuse is reported, several steps are taken to address the situation and protect the victim. Depending on the jurisdiction and the specifics of the case, the exact steps may vary, but here are the most common:

  1. Investigation: Upon receiving a report of elder abuse, authorities such as Adult Protective Services (APS) or law enforcement will initiate an investigation. This typically involves gathering information, interviewing relevant individuals, and assessing the safety and well-being of the victim.
  2. Protection and Support: If the investigation determines that the victim is in immediate danger or requires protection, appropriate measures will be taken to ensure their safety. This may involve removing them from an abusive environment, providing temporary shelter, or arranging for necessary medical or mental health services.
  3. Legal Intervention: In cases where criminal behavior is involved, law enforcement agencies may proceed with criminal charges against the perpetrators. Prosecutors and legal authorities will work to gather evidence and build a case to hold the abusers accountable in a court of law.
  4. Collaboration with Other Agencies: Depending on the nature of the abuse, other agencies or organizations may be involved in the response. This can include healthcare providers, social workers, legal aid services, or specialized elder abuse units. These entities collaborate to ensure comprehensive support and assistance to the victim.
  5. Follow-up and Support Services: Once the initial response has taken place, ongoing support services may be provided to the victim. This can include counseling, medical care, case management, and assistance in accessing resources to aid in their recovery and well-being.

The specific actions taken will depend on the severity and type of abuse, as well as the jurisdiction’s resources and protocols. The underlying goal in these investigations is to ensure the safety, well-being, and justice for the victim of elder abuse.

Elder Abuse Resources

These resources can provide valuable assistance, support, and guidance to individuals who are dealing with or wish to report elder abuse. Remember, reporting abuse is crucial in protecting vulnerable individuals and promoting their well-being.

  1. National Domestic Violence Hotline: The National Domestic Violence Hotline provides support, information, and resources for individuals facing elder abuse, including emotional support, safety planning, and referrals to local services. You can reach them at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or visit their website at
  2. National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA): The NCEA is a valuable resource for information, research, and resources related to elder abuse prevention and intervention. Their website offers comprehensive information on recognizing, reporting, and preventing elder abuse. Visit their website at for more information.
  3. Eldercare Locator: The Eldercare Locator is a nationwide service that connects older adults and their families with local resources and services. They can provide information on local community-based programs, legal services, support groups, and more. You can reach the Eldercare Locator at 1-800-677-1116 or visit their website at

Recent Elder Abuse Settlements in California

Recent Elder Abuse Allegations

Get in Touch with a Lawyer if You Need Help

If you need legal assistance or advice regarding elder abuse, it is recommended to get in touch with an experienced lawyer specializing in elder law. They can provide guidance on your rights, help you navigate legal processes, and advocate for your best interests. Consultations with elder law attorneys can help you understand the available legal remedies and potential courses of action.

LawLinq is an attorney-based referral service dedicated to helping individuals across California find the best legal representation for their elder abuse cases. Our team can match you with qualified elder law attorneys who have a deep understanding of the unique challenges faced by elderly individuals. These attorneys can provide you with personalized guidance, ensure your rights are protected, and help you navigate the legal processes involved in addressing elder abuse.

To get started, simply reach out to us and our team will work diligently to connect you with a reputable attorney who best suits your specific needs. Together, we can help you seek justice, hold accountable those responsible for elder abuse, and protect the rights and well-being of our loved ones.


About the Author

Jessica Anvar

California Consumer Litigation Attorney Jessica Anvar, Esq. is the Founder and Managing Partner of Lemon Law Experts California’s leading lemon law firm. She has multiple years’ worth of experience working with both state and federal lemon laws. Her practice focuses exclusively on consumer protection cases. Ms. Anvar received her J.D. from Loyola Law School. She also earned a Master of Business Administration degree from Loyola Marymount University. Jessica is very active in her local legal community and has helped thousands of clients across the state of California. She has an outstanding record as a true advocate for consumers.

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