An older man sits sadly and rests his hands on a cane

Punishments for Elder Abuse

Elder abuse is considered a serious crime, but it often goes unreported. Older adults and their loved ones may be afraid that reporting abuse will lead to worse treatment. Thankfully, there are laws at both the federal and state levels to ensure punishments for elder abuse are carried out. Learn more about what to do if you are the victim of elder abuse or suspect it is happening to someone you love.

What Is Considered Elder Abuse?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), elder abuse is any action (or failure to act) that puts a person over the age of 60 in harm’s way.

Common types of elder abuse are:

Elder abuse is never acceptable. What’s more, whether it is intentional or unintentional, elder abuse is a serious crime.

Pursue financial compensation now if your loved one suffered elder abuse in a nursing home. Start the process with a free case review.

Is Elder Abuse a Felony?

Some cases of elder abuse may be considered felonies. Whether elder abuse is a felony or a misdemeanor will depend on the severity of the crime and the state where it was committed.

While neglect may be considered a misdemeanor, violence and sexual assault could be felonies. Misdemeanors and felonies are both punishable by law.

Elder abuse is a serious crime. You must call 911 immediately if you know of a dangerous or threatening situation involving an elderly person.

What Are the Punishments for Elder Abuse?

Both criminal and civil laws exist to help prevent and punish elder abuse. Misdemeanor elder abuse is generally punished with fines or community service, and felonies could lead to jail time.

Law enforcement is trained to take all elder abuse claims seriously, no matter what kind of abuse has occurred. Further, state and federal laws are in place to hand out severe punishments for elder abuse.

Sadly, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) estimates that only about 1 in 23 elder abuse cases are reported to the authorities.

This grim statistic shows why we need more rules that require people to report abuse. These are known as mandated reporting laws. Mandated reporters could be considered complicit and legally responsible if they do not report elder abuse under these laws.

Additionally, in 2010, the Elder Justice Act (EJA) was passed to help protect seniors from elder abuse. The EJA requires that long-term care facilities report suspected elder abuse or face fines of up to $300,000.

Criminal Punishments for Elder Abuse

Many states have laws that are specifically designed to help protect older Americans. While the laws may differ, some states allow for stiffer punishments based solely on the victim’s advanced age.

Examples of punishments for elder abuse by state include:

  • California: It is a crime to cause pain or mental suffering that is likely to produce bodily harm to an elder
  • Florida: Any type of elder abuse can be considered a third-degree felony punishable by 5 years in prison and $5,000 fine, with neglect being a second-degree felony carrying up to 15 years of jail time and $10,000 in fines
  • Kansas: Financial elder abuse is punished more severely than theft or fraud of an individual who is not elderly
  • Massachusetts: Assault and battery upon an elderly person is punishable by jail time of up to 3 years and/or fines up to $1,000
  • Minnesota: Simple assault of an elderly person is considered a gross misdemeanor
  • New York: Through a “Granny Law,” assault of a person over 65 is considered second-degree assault if the assailant is 10 or more years younger than the victim

New Laws, Stricter Punishments For Elder Abuse

Recognizing that cases of elder abuse are on the rise, officials are taking action across the country to protect the elderly population from harm. Learn about recent laws regarding punishments for elder abuse below.

  • Illinois: In 2020, a new law was passed preventing anyone — even family members — from receiving an inheritance from someone they are convicted of assault or battery against
  • Michigan: In 2019, laws were created to give police officers better ways to identify abuse when elderly people are too fearful of reporting it
  • Ohio: In 2018, legislation was passed that requires anyone found guilty of elder financial abuse to pay full restitution plus fines of up to $50,000
  • Tennessee: In 2020, the Elderly and Vulnerable Adult Protection Act made punishments for elder abuse more severe

Elder abuse is a crime and is punishable by law. It can occur in nursing homes or even in the victim’s home at the hands of friends and family.

While progress is being made to protect this vulnerable population, there is still much more to be done. Stricter punishments for elder abuse are certainly a start.

How to Report Elder Abuse

If you suspect elder abuse is happening, you must take action — the abuse won’t stop on its own. What’s worse, elder abuse can cause emotional, physical, and financial devastation. If you notice signs of elder abuse, take swift action.

Contact 911 if an elderly person is in immediate danger. You can also contact Adult Protective Services (APS) or file a report with a nursing home ombudsman (who protect residents).

You may also wish to seek justice by taking legal action. Money received in a lawsuit can help ensure your loved one is never harmed again. Connect with our team now for free and confidential case review to get started.

Author:Nursing Home Abuse Justice Team
Nursing Home Abuse Justice Team

Nursing Home Abuse Justice was founded to shine a light on nursing home and elder abuse. Every day, thousands of people in nursing homes and assisted living facilities are abused. Our team helps educate seniors and their loved ones on the common causes, signs and preventions of nursing home abuse. We report on real-world studies and current events from respected news outlets to expose this national problem.

Last modified: April 20, 2022

View 5 References
  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021, June 02). Fast Facts: Preventing Elder Abuse.
    Retrieved April 12, 2022, from https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/elderabuse/fastfact.html

  2. Coble, C. (2019, March 21). What are the criminal penalties for elder abuse? Retrieved April 12, 2022, from https://www.findlaw.com/legalblogs/criminal-defense/what-are-the-criminal-penalties-for-elder-abuse/

  3. FCP Live-In. (2020, February 05). New laws add stiffer penalties to those charged with elderly abuse. Retrieved April 12, 2022, from https://www.liveinhomecare.com/new-laws-add-stiffer-penalties-to-those-charged-with-elderly-abuse/fcp-live-in/

  4. The General Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. (n.d.). Section 13K. Retrieved April 12, 2022, from https://malegislature.gov/Laws/GeneralLaws/PartIV/TitleI/Chapter265/Section13K#:~:text=(a1%2F2)%20Whoever%20commits,both%20such%20fine%20and%20imprisonment.

  5. Pirius, R. (2021, March 10). Elder abuse crimes and penalties. Retrieved April 12, 2022, from https://www.criminaldefenselawyer.com/resources/elder-abuse.htm