Abuse in any form is unacceptable. Those who are able should provide support, love and care to vulnerable groups. Too often, however, those who rely on others, whether due to age, health or mental capacity, are abused. Elder abuse first took on legal precedence during the civil rights movement of the mid to late 1900s. However, elder abuse remains largely underreported and unrecognized. Statistically, the majority of elder abuse is perpetrated by family members or family care-givers and takes place within the home. This can cause the victim to feel even more isolated and fearful. Knowledge is key in protecting yourself or a loved one from mistreatment. Keep your eyes open; take a stand for the welfare of our seniors.
The National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA), directed by the U.S. Administration on Aging, defines elder abuse as:
Physical Abuse—Inflicting, or threatening to inflict physical pain or injury on a vulnerable elder, or depriving them of a basic need
Emotional Abuse—Inflicting mental pain, anguish, or distress on an elder person through verbal or nonverbal acts
Sexual Abuse—Non-consensual sexual contact of any kind, coercing an elder to witness sexual behaviors
Exploitation—Illegal taking, misuse, or concealment of funds, property, or assets of a vulnerable elder
Neglect—Refusal or failure by those responsible to provide food, shelter, health care or protection for a vulnerable elder
Abandonment—The desertion of a vulnerable elder by anyone who has assumed the responsibility for care or custody of that person
Florida law outlines elder abuse, aggravated assault and neglect as well as the penalties associated with these crimes in Title XLVI – chapter 825.102.
Elder abuse is a felony of the third degree and is defined by Florida law as:
Intentional infliction of physical or psychological injury upon an elderly person or disabled adult;
An intentional act that could reasonably be expected to result in physical or psychological injury to an elderly person or disabled adult; or
Active encouragement of any person to commit an act that results or could reasonably be expected to result in physical or psychological injury to an elderly person or disabled adult.
Aggravated elder abuse is a felony of the first degree and is defined by Florida law as:
Commit[ting] aggravated battery on an elderly person or disabled adult;
Willfully tortur[ing], maliciously punish[ing], or willfully and unlawfully cag[ing], an elderly person or disabled adult; or
Knowingly or willfully abus[ing] an elderly person or disabled adult and in so doing cause[ing] great bodily harm, permanent disability, or permanent disfigurement to the elderly person or disabled adult.
Negligence of a dependent elder causing serious injury is felony of the second degree, and negligence of a dependent elder that does not result in serious injury is felony of the third degree. Negligence is defined by Florida law as:
A caregiver’s failure or omission to provide an elderly person or disabled adult with the care, supervision, and services necessary to maintain the elderly person’s or disabled adult’s physical and mental health, including, but not limited to, food, nutrition, clothing, shelter, supervision, medicine, and medical services that a prudent person would consider essential for the well-being of the elderly person or disabled adult; or
A caregiver’s failure to make a reasonable effort to protect an elderly person or disabled adult from abuse, neglect, or exploitation by another person.
Neglect of an elderly person or disabled adult may be based on repeated conduct or on a single incident or omission that results in, or could reasonably be expected to result in, serious physical or psychological injury, or a substantial risk of death, to an elderly person or disabled adult.
If you are concerned for you safety and wellbeing, or that of someone you know, please contact the Madison County Sheriff's Office at (850) 973-4151. If you feel that you are in immediate danger, call 911 for emergency assistance. To learn more about elder abuse, visit the NCEA website at, http://www.ncea.aoa.gov/. To learn more about Florida laws on elder abuse, visit: http://www.leg.state.fl.us/statutes.