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Reporting Elder Abuse

Definitions of Elder and Dependent Abuse

  • An elder is 65 years old or older
  • A dependent adult is 18 years old with a physical or mental disability resulting in an inability to protect his/her own rights
  • Abuse is defined as the physical abuse, neglect, intimidation, cruel punishment, financial abuse, abandonment, or other treatment resulting in pain or physical or mental suffering, or deprivation by a caretaker of goods or services which are necessary to avoid physical harm or mental suffering

Failure of a Mandated Reporter to report suspected abuse and/or neglect is a misdemeanor.

How do I report suspected elder abuse?

The San Jose Police Department and Adults Protective Services are the two agencies charged with receiving reports of elder abuse occurring in San Jose. These agencies are also responsible for the joint investigation of elder abuse allegations. You may report suspicions of elder abuse to the San Jose Police Department 24 hours a day by calling 911. The operator will ask you to describe the circumstances and then dispatch a patrol officer to take a report.

You may also contact the Santa Clara County Adults Protective Services at:

  • (408) 975-4900 or
  • (800) 414-2002 (within California Only).

Types Of Elder And Dependent Adult Abuse Top of page

  • Physical Abuse
  • Psychological Abuse
  • Neglect and Self-Neglect

Physical Abuse Top of page

Physical abuse is defined as the use of physical force that may result in bodily injury, physical pain, or impairment. Physical abuse may include such acts of violence as striking (with or without an object), hitting, beating, pushing, shoving, shaking, slapping, kicking, pinching, and burning. In addition, the inappropriate use of drugs and physical restraints, force-feeding, and physical punishment of any kind are also examples of physical abuse.

Signs and symptoms of physical abuse include:

  • Bruises, black eyes, welts, lacerations, and rope marks
  • Bone fractures, broken bones, and skull fractures
  • Open wounds, cuts, punctures
  • Untreated injuries in various stages of healing
  • Sprains, dislocations, and internal injuries/bleedings
  • Broken eyeglasses/frames
  • Signs of being restrained
  • Laboratory findings of medication overdose or under utilization of prescribed drugs
  • An elder/dependent adult's report of being hit, slapped, kicked, or mistreated
  • An elder/dependent adult's sudden change in behavior
  • A caregiver's refusal to allow visitors to see an elder/dependent adult alone

Psychological Abuse Top of page

Psychological or emotional abuse is defined as the infliction of anguish, pain, or distress through verbal or nonverbal acts. Psychological/emotional abuse includes verbal assaults, insults, threats, intimidation, humiliation, and harassment. In addition, treating an elder/dependent person like an infant; isolating an elder/dependent person from their family, friends, or regular activities; giving an elder/dependent person the "silent treatment" and enforced social isolation are examples of emotional/psychological abuse.

Signs and symptoms of psychological/emotional abuse include:

  • Elder/dependent adult acting emotionally upset or agitated
  • Elder/dependent adult becoming extremely withdrawn, or non-responsive
  • Elder/dependent adult displaying unusual behavior usually attributed to dementia (e.g., sucking, biting, rocking)
  • An elder/dependent adult's report of being verbally or emotionally mistreated

Neglect and Self-Neglect Top of page

Neglect is defined as the refusal or failure to fulfill any part of a person's obligations or duties to an elder or dependent adult. Neglect may also include failure of a person who has fiduciary responsibilities to provide care for an elder or dependent adult (e.g. pay for necessary home care services) or the failure on the part of an in-home service provider to provide necessary care. Neglect typically means the refusal or failure to provide an elderly person or dependent adult with such life necessities as food, water, clothing, shelter, personal hygiene, medicine, comfort, personal safety, and other essentials included in an implied or agreed-upon responsibility to an elder or dependent adult.

Signs and symptoms of neglect include:

  • Dehydration, malnutrition, untreated bed sores, and poor personal hygiene
  • Unattended or untreated health problems
  • Hazardous or unsafe living condition or arrangements (e.g. dirt, fleas, lice on a person, soiled bedding, fecal/urine smell, inadequate clothing)
  • An elder/dependent adult's report of being mistreated

Self-Neglect is defined as the failure of an elder or dependent adult to adequately take care of themselves and meet the demands of daily living to eat, pay bills, meet personal hygiene needs, and take medications.

Self-Neglect is NOT A CRIMINAL MATTER. It should be reported to Adult Protective Services at (408) 975-4900 for evaluation.

Resources Available Top of page

Senior Nutrition Program (SNP) 408-975-4860
Public Administrator/Guardian/Conservator (PA/G/C) 408-577-2500
In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) 408-975-4899
Department of Aging and Adult Services (DAAS) 408-975-4848
California Department of Mental Health 916-654-3565
Long Term Care Ombudsman (OMB) 408-944-0567

California Penal Code Definition Top of page

368 PC Abuse of elder or dependent adult. (a) The Legislature finds and declares that crimes against elders and dependent adults are deserving of special consideration and protection, not unlike the special protections provided for minor children, because elders and dependent adults may be confused, on various medications, mentally or physically impaired, or incompetent, and therefore less able to protect themselves, to understand or report criminal conduct, or to testify in court proceedings on their own behalf.

(b)(1) Any person who, under circumstances or conditions likely to produce great bodily harm or death, willfully causes or permits any elder or dependent adult, with knowledge that he or she is an elder or a dependent adult, with knowledge that he or she is an elder or a dependent adult, to suffer, or inflicts thereon unjustifiable physical pain or mental suffering, or having the care of custody of any elder or dependent adult, willfully causes or permits the person or health of the elder or dependent adult to be injured, or willfully causes or permits the elder or dependent adult to be placed in a situation in which his or her person or health is endangered, is punishable by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one year, or by a fine not to exceed six thousand dollars ($6,000), or by both that fine and imprisonment, or in the state prison for two, three, or four years.

(b)(2) If in the commission of an offense described in paragraph (1), the victim suffers great bodily injury, as defined in subdivision (e) of Section 12022.7, the defendant shall receive an additional term in the state prison as follows:

(A) Three years if the victim is under 70 years of age.
(B) Five years if the victim is 70 years of age or older.

(c) Any person who, under circumstances or conditions other than those likely to produce great bodily harm or death, willfully causes or permits any elder or a dependent adult, to suffer, or inflicts thereon unjustifiable physical pain or mental suffering, or having the care or custody of any elder or dependent adult, willfully causes or permits the person or health of the elder or dependent adult to be injured or willfully causes or permits the elder or dependent adult to be placed in a situation in which his or her person or health may be endangered, is guilty of a misdemeanor.

(d) Any person who is not a caretaker who violates any provision of law proscribing theft or embezzlement, with respect to the property of an elder or dependent adult, and who knows or reasonably should know that the victim is an elder or dependent adult, is punishable by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one year, or in the state prison for two, three, or four years, when the money, labor, or real or personal property taken is of a value exceeding four hundred dollars ($400); and by a fine not exceeding one thousand dollars ($1,000), by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one year, or by both that fine and imprisonment, when the money, labor, or real or personal property taken is of a value not exceeding four hundred dollars ($400).

(e) Any caretaker of an elder or a dependent adult who violates any provision of law proscribing theft or embezzlement, with respect to the property of that elder or dependent adult, is punishable by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one year, or in the state prison for two, three, or four years, when the money, labor, or real or personal property taken is of a value exceeding four hundred dollars ($400), and by a fine not exceeding one thousand dollars ($1000), by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one year, or by both that fine and imprisonment, when the money, labor, or real or personal property taken is of a value not exceeding four hundred dollars ($400).

(f) Any person who commits the false imprisonment of an elder or dependent adult by the use of violence, menace, fraud, or deceit is punishable by imprisonment in the state prison for two, three, or four years.

(g) As used in this section, "elder" means any person who is 65 years of age or older.

(h) As used in this section, "dependent adult" means any person who is between the ages of 18 and 64, who has physical or mental limitations which restricts his or her ability to carry out normal activities or to protect his or her rights, including, but not limited to, persons who have physical or developmental including, but not limited to, persons who have physical or developmental disability or whose physical or mental abilities have diminished because of age. "Dependent adult" includes any person between the ages of 18 and 64 who is admitted as an inpatient to a 24-hour health facility, as defined in Sections 1250, 1250.2, and 1250.3 of the Health and Safety Code.

(i) As used in this section, "caretaker" means any person who has the care, custody, or control of, or who stands in a position of trust with, an elder or a dependent adult.

(j) Nothing in this section shall preclude prosecution under both this section and Section 187 or 12022.7 or any other provision of law. However, a person shall not receive an additional term of imprisonment under both paragraphs (2) and (3) of subdivision (b) for any single offense, nor shall a person receive an additional term of imprisonment under both Section 12022.7 and paragraph (2) or (3) of subdivision (b) for any single offense.

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