Elders are protected in California under Penal Code section 368. Similarly, in Virginia and Maryland there’s a complete legal system in place to protect elders from ‘abuse, neglect, self-neglect, or exploitation’. All it needs is a complaint, from the abused person, a relative, friend, neighbor, doctor, service provider to trigger immediate action. The State Departments (organizations on aging) will investigate the case to its completion. If required, the abused elder person will be given the appropriate protection or healthcare. The alleged abuser, if proved guilty, will be convicted under applicable State laws.
Who can be charged with elder abuse?
Penal Code section 368 specifically targets “caretakers” of elders. A caretaker is defined under the statute as anyone who “has the care, custody, or control of, or who stands in a position of trust with, an elder or a dependent adult.”
The type of misconduct covered is
- Willful neglect
- Inflicting physical harm or suffering on an elder
- Placing an elder in a situation that could result in great bodily injury or death
- Permitting the health of an elder to be jeopardized
- General neglect
- Committing theft, fraud, embezzlement or otherwise taking financial advantage of an elder
- False imprisonment of an elder through the use of force, menace, fraud or violence
A growing epidemic in the South Asian community
The South Asian community is gaining a shameful notoriety in sheltering abuse towards its elders. There are innumerable stories circulating in hush-hush fashion. The very same parents who nurtured are being pushed around, to do domestic work beyond capacity or wish, turn over their savings to their progeny in return for ‘maintenance privileges’, denied adequate medical care and personal requirements. And so on.
The elders won’t talk because they want to protect their family “izzat”. The community keeps tight lipped even if disapproving.
Let’s take care
American law protects elders and it is not so difficult to access the right service. As a community, South Asians should publicize helpline numbers and organizations. Also interaction with elders should be encouraged. Gentle questions asked about their daily lives can easily expose aspects of neglect and abuse. Accordingly, some action can be taken, by reporting possible neglect or abuse tostate-run or welfare organizations and letting them investigate, and also alerting close community members to intervene.
Numbers to call
911 – in case of emergency
Eldercare Locator 1-800-677-1116.
Specially trained operators will refer you to a local agency that can help. The Eldercare Locator is open Monday through Friday, 9 am to 8 pm Eastern Time.
IN MY OWN FAMILY
This documentary gives insight into the difficult lives of many South Asian elders in the Greater Toronto area. The story is the same for all North America.
See also earlier blog: