California Elder and Nursing Home Abuse: What Is It?

Cases involving abuse against the elderly abuse and dependent care abuse in California nursing homes, assisted living facilities and home care can be tragic. They involve the abuse and neglect of those who are in the care and custody of another. However, contrary to what many believe, the abuse and neglect isn’t just physical. To find out more, we asked J. Niley Dorit, a California elder law and nursing home abuse lawyer whose practice consists of elder and dependent neglect, elder and dependent abuse, medical malpractice and general personal injury cases.

Abuse can be physical, psychological or financial

Attorney Dorit says that the neglect or mistreatment can be physical, psychological or financial. He explained, “In California, elder abuse is an umbrella category of law that has regulations to protect some specific groups. It consists of any mistreatment of an adult or a dependent by somebody who is responsible for their care and custody.”

He told us that he does see cases of financial abuse as well. He continued, “I’m starting to see a few more cases involving people with estates – basically caregivers or providers who start to take money out of estates, control of assets or take cars and property from somebody who can’t manage their own affairs. It can be a criminal act as well if there’s the requisite intent and liability. However, there’s a civil remedy which falls under the rubric of financial elder abuse to restore assets and obtain additional damages. It’s just an additional avenue of remedy on top of the criminal offense.”

Common misconceptions about California elder and nursing home abuse

Many believe that elder and nursing home abuse involves physical abuse. However, that is a misconception, according to Dorit. He explained, “I would say that the greatest misconception is that the word ‘abuse’ implies some kind of actual hitting or some intentional act or assault. In reality, abuse is a catchall phrase which consists of disregard or neglect and being hit or physically abused is not necessary to make a case.” He provided the following examples:

  • An example of elder abuse in California can be the failure to provide a dependent or an adult with personal hygiene or medications, helping them get medical care or assisting them with the basic necessities of life. For example, if an elder person isn’t turned properly and gets serious bedsores or wounds that would constitute abuse. In one case, an elder was left out in the sun on a very hot, 100-degree day, and suffered third degree burns. That qualified as elder abuse.
  • There was a famous case a few years back where elders were being bathed in water that had been used to clean bedpans. It didn’t involve hitting an elder person, but it obviously did involve very bad practices – and that constitutes elder abuse in California.