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Elder Neglect Laws

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What Is Elder Neglect?

Elder neglect is a type of violation wherein a caregiver or a person providing respite care fails to give an elderly person the proper care. Victims of elder neglect are often senior citizens who live in care home facilities and are unable to care for themselves on a daily basis. Elder neglect is often listed alongside other types of violations, such as elder abuse. 

Thus, the violation is often stated as “elder abuse and neglect”, or “elderly abuse and neglect.” However, some jurisdictions make distinctions between the two terms. For example, elder abuse usually implies that the person was physically harmed or struck. In contrast, elder neglect implies that the person didn’t receive proper care and attention. 

In most states, elder persons are classified as those persons who are over 60 years old (65 in some states).    

What Are Some Examples of Elder Neglect?

Elder neglect usually involves violations that are “omissions”, meaning that a person failed to perform their duties to the elderly person. Some examples of elderly neglect may include:

  • Failing to provide basic necessities for the elderly person, such as food, water, clothing, or shelter
  • Failing to administer medicines or treatment to the elder person according to a physician’s instructions
  • Allowing the elder person to live in extremely poor, uninhabitable, or unsuitable living conditions
  • Failing to communicate important information to another person as requested by the elder person, especially where such failure results in physical injury to the elder

In most cases, in order for the claim to be legally actionable, the elderly person must have suffered some form of physical or economic harm, such as a bodily injury or a loss of property. Depending on state laws, emotional injuries can be the subject of a lawsuit, but they are generally more difficult to prove unless some form of physical injury has resulted from the emotional distress.

Also, not reporting elder abuse or neglect can also be a violation, if the caregiver or professional has a duty to make such reports. 

Who Can Be Held Liable for Neglect?

Many different parties can be held responsible for elderly neglect. In general, any person who is legally charged with caring for the elder person may be held liable for neglect. These may include:

  • Nursing home staff
  • Caregivers who visit or live at the elder person’s house
  • Medical professionals
  • Parents, relatives, or friends who have assumed legal responsibility for the elder

In other words, a person must have a legal duty to care for the elder person in order to be held liable for neglect. In fact, it may also be a violation to attempt to render care for an elder person without being authorized to do so. 

Penalties for elder neglect may include certain consequences, such as fines or a loss of an operating license for a care home business. Also, the elder person or their representative may file a private civil lawsuit against the person to recover damages for losses.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help With Elder Neglect Laws?

Elder laws can often vary from state to state, and can sometimes be difficult to understand. If you or a loved one needs help with a claim involving elder neglect, you should contact an experienced family law attorney right away. Your lawyer can help explain how the laws operate in your area, and what your possible legal options may be. Also, your attorney can represent you in court if you need to file an elderly neglect lawsuit. 

Photo of page author Adam Vukovic

, LegalMatch Legal Writer

Last Modified: 11-22-2016 09:14 AM PST

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