Doctors, nurses, caregivers and other professionals come into the industry with good intentions. Your career revolves around taking care of others and meeting various needs. Caregivers in nursing homes work day in and day out to provide for the elderly under ever-changing circumstances. A report of elder abuse can put your life on pause. What exactly does elder abuse mean?

Defining elder abuse

In California, anyone 65 years or older falls into the elder category. State laws prohibit elder abuse on a civil and criminal level. Penal Code § 368 defines criminal elder abuse as causing or permitting infliction of mental or physical pain. Parts of the law also consider individuals who knew of the abuse and didn’t say anything. Civil elder abuse happens when a caretaker causes suffering or harm to a patient.

Elder abuse occurs in many forms, such as:

  • Physical abuse: Inflicting bodily harm, injury or sexual assault
  • Mental abuse: Inflicting confusion, fear or harassment
  • Financial abuse: Using an elder’s funds or assets illegally and/or unethically
  • Abandonment: Deserting a patient under your supervision
  • Isolation: Intentionally preventing an elder interacting
  • Neglect: Not fulfilling caretaking obligations and responsibilities

Elder abuse is usually reported when someone notices physical or behavioral changes. This could be a patient’s friend, close relative or a health professional. Oftentimes many factors prod an individual to raise concerns.

For example, their loved one as a decreased appetite, which leads to weight loss or malnutrition. On the other hand, the patient might show behavioral changes, and express anxiety, anger or depression. Such indicators can happen one at a time, or all at once. It’s common for friends and family to report elder abuse without all the facts, and situations can be blown out of proportion.

Accusations of elder abuse can greatly affect a caregiver’s career. Misinformation and misunderstanding can result in professionals unjustly losing their licenses. It’s important to research your rights and take a stand when defending your reputation and future.