Friday, June 7, 2019

Elder and Dependent Adult Abuse in California

Elder and Dependent Adult Abuse in California 

By John Hartmire, Associate Government Program Analyst, California Department of Social Services, Adult Protective Services 

Adult Protective Services (APS) is present in every one of California’s 58 counties, and it is busier than ever these days. More of California’s elderly and dependent adults were abused last year than ever before, and at a cost of more than $165 million. APS investigated nearly 191,000 reports of abuse in fiscal year 2017-2018, up from the 184,000 reports received the previous year, and up 49% from the 128,124 reports received in 2011-12. Of those reports,167,081 were investigated, and 76,056 were confirmed as recognized instances of abuse. 

The upsurge in instances of abuse continues a trend partly attributed to the well-documented growth in the nation’s senior population, as well as an increasing awareness of what the abuse of elderly and dependent adults looks like and how it penetrates the fabric of family and community. It is not as simple as the fact that America’s Baby Boomers are retiring to the tune of about 10,000 every day, but also that the avenues of reporting elderly and dependent adult abuse have become more accessible. Every county has a 24-hour toll-free reporting hotline, there is improved understanding and working partnership between agencies, and the training for mandated reporters continues to expand and improve. The scope of the potential problem can be found in demographics: in 2011, for example, seniors comprised 12% of California’s total population, by 2016 14%, and by 2050 that number is estimated to swell to 20%. By 2030, there will be 36 seniors living in California for every 100 working Californians. The number of potential victims increase annually. 

APS is obligated by law to confidentially investigate every allegation and report received, and, when appropriate, offer to any elderly or disabled adult found to be a victim of abuse a case plan that seeks to help them recover. The plans are voluntary, and the cases run the gamut, with some resolved as easily as providing a hot meal or bag of groceries until a lost wallet can be replaced, while others are vastly more complicated, involving family members, while still others will involve outside agencies chasing down bank accounts and elaborately fraudulent property transactions. Financial abuse may be the most common form of abuse APS investigates, it is certainly not the only one. 

More than half of the reports of abuse APS investigated and confirmed last year were cases of self-neglect—42,813 to be precise. There were over 6,100 confirmed allegations of physical abuse, and over 9,600 confirmed allegations of psychological and emotional abuse. Across the board, in all categories, the numbers have increased annually. 

The California Victim Compensation Board is dedicated to providing financial assistance for many crime-related expenses. Victims who suffer physical injury, threat of physical injury or emotional injury as a direct result of a violent crime may qualify for assistance. To learn more visit: