California treats elder abuse and neglect seriously. If you assume full or intermittent responsibility for the care of a dependent adult, with or without compensation, you are most likely a mandated reporter. Mandated reporters are legally responsible to report suspicions of abuse or neglect to local police or Adult Protective Services.
Failing to report abuse could result in legal consequences including heavy fines and possible jail time. These consequences increase in severity when the court has reason to believe that you willfully or intentionally withheld suspicions.
Suspecting abuse or neglect
State law mandates reporting of all forms of elder abuse — financial, physical and sexual — as well as elder neglect, abandonment, isolation and abduction. You do not have to have direct knowledge or confirmation of the abuse or neglect. Simply having reasonable suspicions is sufficient cause to make a report.
Sometimes victims will speak up to tell their loved ones or caregivers about mistreatment, but other times, they may have reasons for staying silent. They may be afraid of retribution or simply not have the presence of mind or awareness to tell you what’s happening. However, there are usually signs that accompany elder abuse and neglect.
Physical and sexual mistreatment can cause bruises, bedsores, defensive behavior or simply changes in demeanor, among other things. When the abuse is financial, you may notice suspicious behavior like the failure to pay bills without obvious reasons. Or you may notice large withdrawals or abrupt changes to documents. Whatever the reason for your suspicions, it is essential that you take them seriously.
Reporting abuse or neglect
If you want to report elder abuse or neglect, collect all of the information that you do have. In your report, you will want to include everything you know about the possible abuse, including when and where it may have occurred, what caused your suspicions and whom you believe to be the possible abusers.
Include the alleged victim’s primary caregiver information and the names and details of everyone you believe to be aware of the mistreatment. The more details you include, the better prepared authorities will be to take action.