Elders who rely on others for physical, emotional, and medical wellbeing are at risk of being abandoned by them. According to the California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform (CANHR), abandonment is a form of physical elder abuse and defines it as “the desertion of an elder by someone who is a caregiver.”
The California Welfare and Institutions Code Section 15610.05 includes that “willful forsaking’ of an elder by someone having care or custody of that elder also constitutes abandonment.
Not only is abandonment a form of elder abuse, but it is a form of abuse that more often than not results in tragedy. Many elders, especially those with mental or physical disabilities, must rely on caregivers or care-giving facilities to care for them and provide them services to meet their needs. Often, elders pay significant fees to ensure proper care and attention. When their caregivers or care-giving facilities desert or abandon them instead, and the elders become unable to take care of or protect themselves, they may become ill, injured, lost, disoriented, or even die.
Examples of Abandonment
Abandonment can occur when a nursing home, caregiver, or conservator fails to fulfill their duties in caring for or protecting the elder who uses their services. Any individual or institution that abandons or deserts the elder may be guilty of elder abuse in the form of abandonment. Elders with dementia, Alzheimer’s, or other cognitive or physical disabilities may be particularly at risk for abandonment, as they are the least able to care for themselves without the help of others. An elder may be abandoned within an institution if they are deserted or forsaken.
A care-giving or custodial institution could also abandon an elder by deserting or forsaking an elder in some location outside of the institution. If the elder is mentally and/or physically incapable, abandonment in a foreign location could be fatal. For example, an elder with a cognitive disability may be unable to care for himself, ask for help, or find his way to safety. An elder with a physical disability could be equally unable to get herself to shelter or back home.
Other Forms of Abandonment
“Granny dumping” is one of many heinous examples of abandonment, where individuals bring their elder relations and dependents to foreign locations and desert them there. Family members or outsiders who are caregivers are responsible for safeguarding the elder’s wellbeing, and could be perpetrating elder abuse if they try to get rid of their duties by abandoning the elder.
Signs of Abandonment
Abandonment is typically thought of as a one-time occurrence, but can also exist in recurring form. If a caregiver or institution repeatedly deserts and forsakes the elder for whom they are legally responsible, they may be committing several instances of abandonment. If you or your loved one shows any signs of neglect, you may be a victim of elder abuse.
The following are signs that may indicate abandonment:
- Responsible individuals claiming not to know the elder’s whereabouts
- The elder claiming to have been left or abandoned in an unknown location
- The elder claiming to have been abandoned at a nursing home, medical facility, or shopping center
- The elder suddenly goes missing without explanation
- The elder dies without explanation
Abandonment Law in California
Abandonment is one of the listed forms of elder abuse as outlined in California’s laws. In Section 15610.05 of the Welfare & Institutions Code, abandonment is defined as “the desertion or willful forsaking of an elder or a dependent adult by anyone [who has] care or custody of that person under circumstances in which a reasonable person would continue to provide care and custody.” The crime of abandonment can be committed by an unpaid family member responsible for the senior, or a paid caretaker.
Abandonment poses a serious threat to an older person’s well-being, and can even be fatal. Without proper care or supervision, an older person—especially one with health or mental problems—runs the risks of exposure, malnutrition, and lack of medical treatments. This abuse is not always long-lasting, elder abuse attorneys in San Francisco say. Sometimes, older people are left in cars, shopping centers, parks, or even their rooms at a nursing home for extended periods of time—a few hours to a day or two—and cannot access their most basic needs, like food, water, or medicine. This qualifies as abandonment abuse under the law, and puts senior citizens in danger.
If an older person is left in an outdoor area, like a park or street corner, he or she may suffer from the exposure to extreme temperatures and the elements—hot, cold, rain, snow, etc.—all of which can result in serious health complications, no matter how long the period of exposure. An older person abandoned in a nursing home room, house, or other indoor area is no better off—he or she may be unable to access basic nutritional needs, or have no heat or air conditioning in extreme temperatures, or basic furnishings.
An abandoned senior with a mental condition such as Alzheimer’s or dementia may forget to take basic care of himself, without a caretaker to remind him. These seniors may also be prone to wandering (also called elopement), often getting lost because they cannot remember how to get home.
Contact an Abandonment and Elder Abuse Attorney
Abandonment is a serious violation of rights and an example of elder abuse. Elders who cannot take care of themselves should live lives free of abandonment and abuse. If you believe that you or your loved one has been the victim of neglect, contact an experienced elder abuse attorney at San Francisco elder abuse law firm The Evans Law Firm. For a free and confidential consultation, call 415-441-8669 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.