On Elder Abuse Awareness Day, Attorney General Bonta Issues Tips to Identify and Report Elder Abuse

Wednesday, June 15, 2022
Contact: (916) 210-6000, agpressoffice@doj.ca.gov

OAKLAND – On Elder Abuse Awareness Day, California Attorney General Rob Bonta provided Californians with tips to identify and report elder abuse. Elder Abuse is a national issue that threatens some of the most vulnerable members of our communities — according to figures by the U.S. Department of Justice, at least 10% of adults age 65 and older will be a victim of elder abuse in a given year. Today, Attorney General Bonta outlines common warning signs to help the families and caretakers of elderly individuals identify abuse, and urges anyone who witnesses or suspects elder abuse to come forward and report elder mistreatment.

“Sadly, whether it’s due to fear of retaliation, or worse, many of our elders don’t talk about the abuse they’ve endured” said Attorney General Bonta. “Elder abuse can take many insidious forms, including the neglect of a caregiver, financial exploitation and sexual, physical, and mental abuse. Too often, the perpetrators of these egregious actions are those we trust the most to take care of our loved ones. Our elders should never suffer, especially in silence. I urge Californians to look at the warning signs, and to report confirmed or suspected mistreatment to our Division of Medi-Cal Fraud and Elder Abuse at oag.ca.gov/dmfea/reporting.”

What is Elder Abuse?

Acts that may constitute abuse or neglect of elders and dependents under the law are defined broadly. Abusive conduct may include the infliction of injury, inappropriate sexual contact or conduct, theft and/or financial exploitation, unreasonable confinement, intimidation, or punishment with resulting physical or financial harm, pain, or mental anguish. Neglect can include the failure to provide goods and services necessary to avoid physical harm, mental anguish, or mental illness.

What are Common Signs of Elder Abuse?

Here are important warning signs for elders, their families, friends, and caregivers to help identify and prevent abuse:

  • Neglect and Abandonment: Dehydration, malnutrition, untreated bed sores, and poor personal hygiene. Hazardous or unsafe living condition/arrangements. Unsanitary and unclean living conditions.
  • Financial Exploitation: Sudden changes in bank accounts or banking practices. Unauthorized withdrawal of the elder’s funds using the elder’s ATM card. Abrupt changes in a will or other financial documents.
  • Psychological: Being emotionally upset or agitated, extremely withdrawn, non communicative or non responsive. Exhibiting a change in sleeping patterns or eating habits. Personality changes, such as apologizing excessively, or depression or anxiety.
  • Sexual Abuse: Bruises around the breasts or genital area, unexplained venereal disease, or genital infections. Changes in a senior’s demeanor, such as showing fear or becoming withdrawn when a specific person is near. Blood found on sheets, linens or a senior’s clothing.
  • Physical Abuse: Bruises, black eyes, welts, lacerations, sprains, dislocations, fractures, broken bones, or internal injuries/bleeding. Broken eyeglasses or frames, physical signs of being subjected to punishment, or signs of being restrained. Laboratory findings of medication overdose or underutilization of prescribed drugs.

How do I Report Elder Abuse?

Individuals who think they have been a victim of elder abuse, or their caregivers or others mandated by law to report elder abuse should contact local law enforcement authorities. In addition, they may contact the California Department of Justice by:

  • Mailing a written complaint to: California Department of Justice Division of Medi-Cal Fraud and Elder Abuse, P.O. Box 944255, Sacramento, CA 94244-2550.
  • Calling the hotline: Phone toll-free: (800) 722-0432, Attorney General's Division of Medi-Cal Fraud and Elder Abuse.
  • Filing a complaint with Attorney General's Division of Medi-Cal Fraud and Elder Abuse (DMFEA) online at:  oag.ca.gov/dmfea/reporting.

Attorney General Bonta has vigorously prosecuted elder abuse:

Established in January 2021, The Attorney General's Division of Medi-Cal Fraud and Elder Abuse (DMFEA) works aggressively to protect senior residents in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities from physical and financial abuse or neglect. Elder abuse in any form is not tolerated.  For more information about the Bureau of Medi-Cal Fraud and Elder Abuse please visit DMFEA's website at oag.ca.gov/bmfea/ or email DMFEAOutreach@doj.ca.gov.

Authority of DMFEA to investigate and prosecute elder abuse is generally limited to cases involving individuals who receive services paid for by Medi-Cal, or receive services in facilities that accept Medi-Cal, or are elder or dependent adults living in licensed assisted living facilities.

DMFEA receives 75% of its funding from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services under a grant award totaling $50,522,020 for federal fiscal year 2021-2022. The remaining 25% is funded by the State of California. The federal fiscal year is defined as October 1, 2021, through September 30, 2022. 

Please view a video of Attorney General Rob Bonta speaking about Elder Abuse Awareness Day here. 

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