Elder abuse is a term related to a varied of crimes intentionally committed against a person who is an elder or dependent adult. An elder is 65 years or older, and a dependent adult is over the age of 18 but unable to adequately care for himself because of physical or developmental disabilities. The crimes related to elder abuse range from financial crimes, frauds and scams, physical and sexual abuse, neglect to homicide.
Elder crimes are investigated by law enforcement, and they are aided by services in our community. At the Fresno Police Department, the Elder Abuse Unit is part of the Major Crimes Bureau in the Financial Crimes Unit; it is staffed by one detective. Additional services in the City include Adult Protective Services, the Ombudsman Program and the Public Guardian.
Elder abuse attacks a vulnerable group in our community, because they can have debilitating illnesses and failing mental faculties. They are also a generation that trusted their friends, families and strangers. Even though elder abuse can be committed by strangers, usually in the case of fraud, elder abuse is often committed by family members, friends and caregivers. We ask our community to report suspected elder abuse to law enforcement, APS or the Ombudsmen. Abuse can continue and often escalates if there is no intervention.
Warning Signs of elder abuse. The existence of any one or more of these does not necessarily mean that abuse has occurred. Instead, treat them as signs that diligent attention or investigation is needed.
Physical warning signs:
- Uncombed or matted hair
- Poor skin condition or hygiene
- Unkempt or dirty
- Patches of hair missing or bleeding scalp
- Any untreated medical condition
- Malnourished or dehydrated
- Foul smelling
- Torn or bloody clothing or undergarments
- Scratches, blisters, lacerations or pinch marks
- Unexplained bruises or welts
- Burns caused by scalding water, cigarettes or ropes
- Injuries that are incompatible with explanations
- Any injuries that reflect an outline of an object, for example, a belt, cord or hand
Behavioral warning signs:
- Confused or extremely forgetful
- Helpless or angry
- Hesitant to talk freely
Isolation warning signs: Isolation of an elder is an insidious tool used by many abusers. Accomplished with the systematic exclusion of all real outside contact, the elder victim is eventually driven to distrust friends, doctors and even close family members. Ultimately, the elder victim becomes a pawn – manipulated into trusting only the abuser.
- Family members or caregivers have isolated the elder, restricting the elder’s contact with others, including family, visitors, doctors, clergy or friends.
- Elder is not given the opportunity to speak freely or have contact with others without the caregiver being present.
- Financial Crimes, frauds and scams can be reported online. We have information in the identity theft/fraud link to provide information about reporting these types of crimes.
- Physical abuse, sexual abuse, and neglect can be life threatening, so should be reported to a police officer. Call our dispatcher at (559) 621-7000 to request assistance.
- Abuse or suspected abuse can also be reported to APS or the Ombudsmen
Adult Protective Services (APS)
APS provides assistance to the elderly and adults who are functionally impaired, and who are possible victims of abuse, exploitation or neglect, including self-neglect. Adult Protective Services agencies investigate reports of abuse that occur in private homes, acute care hospitals, clinics, adult day care facilities and social day care centers. APS provide a 24-hour, 7-day a week hotline to respond to all reports of suspected abuse. Fresno APS is (559) 600-3383
Ombudsmen are trained individuals who advocate for the protection and rights of all residents in long-term care facilities. These facilities include skilled nursing facilities, residential care facilities for the elderly, community care facilities and intermediate care facilities. The primary responsibility of the Ombudsman program is to investigate and resolve complaints made by, or on behalf of, individual residents.