Abuse and neglect of the disabled and elderly happen more often than any of us would like to admit.  It is serious, and it can happen in any setting. All of us, as responsible community members, must help to prevent and stop abuse, neglect, abandonment, and financial exploitation of vulnerable adults by reporting suspected abuse to the appropriate authorities. 

A vulnerable or dependent person is:

  • Someone who is unable to care for or protect him or her self, or
  • A person living in a hospital, nursing home, assisted living facilities, boarding home, or adult family home, or
  • A person with a developmental disability, or
  • A person with a legal guardian or
  • A person receiving personal care services in his or her own home from an agency or contracted individual provider, including self-directed care


You can assess the vulnerability of yourself or a loved one by asking yourself the following questions.


  • Does the elder live alone?
  • Does the elder still drive?  If so, they may be prone to crashes, or to being victimized by driving-related scams
  • Does the elder spend a lot of time on foot, in public places?  If so, they may be targeted by exploiters who search for elderly victims at banks, stores, parks, malls, libraries, etc.
  • Does the elder have information about housing options, care choices, and support groups?
  • Have the elder’s outside activities decreased over the past few years?
  • Does the elder have family members in the area?  Is there weekly contact?
  • Is the elder overly friendly and helpful – even to total strangers?
  • Does the elder know when and how to call the police for emergencies – and for non-emergencies, such as suspicious persons?



  • Who regularly checks the status of the elder’s bank accounts, charge or credit accounts, or investments?
  • Where and from whom is the elder getting financial and medical advice?
  • Who oversees the elder’s Power of Attorney?
  • Does the elder seek advice of fortunetellers, psychic advisors, or spiritual healers?


  • Caregiver hired from reputable agency?
  • Caregiver references checked?
  • Criminal background check done?
  • Elder’s checks, credit cards, etc. locked up?
  • Written service agreement, signed by the caregiver & elder, specifying duties and pay?
  • Log of workers, hours, and salary payments?
  • Weekly review of caregiver expenses?


Adult Protective Services
(877) 565-2020


“I’ll fix your roof or driveway – Cheap!” 
Elder pays cash to a door-to-door solicitor who just happens to have some left-over materials from a previous job, then gets shoddy work – or no work at all.

“You hit my car in the parking lot!”
Crooks smear tar on car while elder is shopping.  When elder returns and drives off, crooks follow, and accuse elder of Hit & Run, pointing to tar as “damage”.  Crooks demand cash to keep from calling Police.

“Latin-Lotto Scam” 
“Illegal alien” offers the elder a share of their “winning” lottery ticket – if the elder is willing to put up their own cash to help redeem it.

“Gold Bar or Diamond Scam” 
“Foreigner” offers to sell elder a fake gold bar or diamond at a “big discount”, to raise cash for a “family emergency” back home.

Utility Inspector Scam
Phony “Utility Inspector” comes to elder’s home, and engages the elder in a conversation. At the same time, another crook enters the home and steals items.

“You’re a Sweepstakes Winner!” 
Elder gets a call or letter saying they have just won a big “prize”, but must first send money for “taxes” or fees before getting their prize.

“We need to verify your information”
Victim receives a telephone call requesting verification of either credit card number or social security number.  After giving this information, the crooks use it to commit other crimes, without the elder not realizing it.

Bank Examiner Scam
Elder gets phone call asking the elder to give a cash deposit to a “bank detective” trying to catch a crooked teller at the elder’s bank.

Fortune-Teller or Psychic Healer
Elder meets with a fortune-teller or psychic and they reveal the elder’s money or jewelry is “cursed” and must be given to a fortuneteller to remove the “curse”.

“Let’s share this found cash”
Stranger approaches elder with offer to share “found” cash.  Elder is told to get “good faith money” of their own, which is then stolen by deception.


You can assess the vulnerability of yourself or a loved one by asking yourself the following questions.


Financial Exploitation occurs when someone takes financial advantage of a vulnerable elderly or disabled person.

  • Sudden transfer of assets (money)
  • Disappearance of possessions
  • Unexplained or unusual use of bank cards
  • Unpaid bills
  • Forged signature on checks
  • Misuse of electronic benefits transfer card
  • Adult is forced to sign a legal document


  • Unexplained bruises, welts, black eyes, wounds, or fractures    
  • Multiple injuries in various stages of healing    
  • Sudden changes in behavior (adult is fearful or depressed or engages in self-destructive behavior)    
  • The caregiver refuses to allow visitors 
  • Person is in restraints or locked in a room    
  • Missing patches of hair or hemorrhaging below the scalp     
  • Client reports abuse


Neglect is the failure of someone to safely care for a vulnerable elderly or disabled person to maintain their health and safety.  Self-neglect is the failure of the vulnerable person to maintain his or her own health and safety.

  • Dehydration
  • Malnutrition
  • Untreated injuries, or unattended health problems, including poor dental health
  • Person lying in feces or urine, or a strong odor of feces or urine
  • Death of a person with indications of poor care
  • Unsafe living conditions
  • A competent person restrained by force or fear
  • Person appears unclean and/or poorly groomed


  • Person is emotionally upset, agitated, withdrawn, non-communicative, depressed, or non-responsive
  • Caregiver refuses to allow visitors or does not let the person participate in family or community events
  • Client reports abuse


  • Bruising around breasts and/or genital area    
  • An unexplained venereal disease    
  • Soiled underclothes or bedding    
  • Sudden changes in behavior


Adult Protective Services (APS): 877-565-2020 (Toll free 24 hour hotline)
Investigates complaints of abuse or neglect of elders and dependent adults; Helps elders obtain needed social services, make police reports, and get conserved

Ombudsman: 909-891-3928
Receives complaints involving elders in long term care facilities, such as nursing homes

Public Guardian: 909-387-2536
Assesses physical, mental and financial needs of elders and dependent adults
Petitions Probate Court for conservatorship
Locates assets and arranges for disposition
Estate Investigators – secure assets and provide money management
Representative Payee Program – financial management of income (SS, SSI, pensions)

Appointed by Probate Court, when a person is no longer able to care for themselves, either physically, financially, or both May be the Public Guardian, a family member, or a professional conservator Note: Power of Attorney is no substitute for conservatorship – It cannot protect the elder.

Probate Court: 909-521-3388
Investigates conservatorship cases Conducts hearings to determine legal competency and to appoint conservators Oversees conservatorships and monitors how the elder’s funds are spent in their behalf

Veterans Service Office: 909-387-5516
 Helps veterans and dependents obtain benefits, and outreach to homeless veterans


A person, including health practitioners, or an owner or employee of an institution, who has reasonable cause to believe that the physical or mental health or welfare of a resident has been adversely affected by the abuse or neglect caused by another person shall report the abuse or neglect.

  • California Welfare & Institutions Code Section 15630(h)
  • California Penal Code Sections 11160 & 11162.
  • California Penal Code § 368

It’s using the elder’s money or assets contrary to the elder’s wishes, needs, or best interests – or for the abuser’s personal gain. 

For example:

  • Taking money or other items from the elder’s home or bank accounts
  • Selling or transferring the elder’s property against their wishes or best interests
  • Failing to provide agreed-upon services to the elder, such as caregiving, home or vehicle repair, or financial management
  • Using the elder’s credit cards for unauthorized purchases
  • Using the elder’s name or good credit to open new credit accounts
  • Misusing the elder’s Power of Attorney (POA)
  • Refusing to return borrowed money or property as agreed upon, or when requested by the elder or their agent
  • Creating or changing living trusts for the benefit of the abuser
  • Changing the elder’s will, trusts, or inheritance for the abuser’s benefit

When a person in a position of trust takes advantage of a vulnerable elder to gain control of their money, property, or their life – either directly, or through a POA, a trust, marriage, adoption, or inheritance.

As long as the abductor keeps the child from you, the statute of limitations normally does not apply. It applies only under the following circumstances:

  • By isolating the elder from contact with other family members, friends, and society
  • By controlling the elder’s mail, phone calls, visitors, and outings
  • By falsely promising the elder to take care of them for the rest of their life
  • By falsely worrying the elder with the fear that they will lose their house and be placed in a nursing home
  • By lying to the elder that no one else cares about them except the abuser
  • By manipulating or withholding the elder’s food or medication so they become weak and compliant
  • By threatening the elder with harm, neglect, or abandonment if they don’t agree to do what they are told
  • Caretakers – paid or volunteer
  • Family members
  • Strangers; Recently acquired “friends”
  • Professionals hired by the elder; Accountants, bankers, lawyers, doctors

Is there a new person involved in the elder’s life, with no logical reason for being there, such as a new boyfriend or girlfriend much younger than the elder?

Has the elder recently changed their doctor, lawyer, accountant, or other professional?

Financial Activity

  • Activity inconsistent with elder’s ability, such as ATM use by a physically impaired person     Numerous new withdrawals, usually in round numbers ($50, $100, $1,000, $5,000, etc.)
  • Increased activity on credit cards
  • Withdrawals made from savings or CD’s in spite of penalty assessments
  • Change in account beneficiaries
  • New authorized signers on accounts
  • Elder is confused about recent financial arrangements
  • Change in property title, quitclaim deed, or new or refinanced mortgage

Inheritance & Wills

  • Recent change in Power or Attorney or Durable Power of Attorney
  • Recent change in Will or Trust, when elder is clearly incapable
  • Recent change in Will or Trust to favor a new or much younger “friend”

Caregiver Warning Signs

  • Is the elder now reluctant to discuss matters that were once routine?
  • Does the elder seem apprehensive of the outside world – more tired or depressed?
  • Does the caregiver say the elder is less willing or able to accept visits or calls?
  • Does the caregiver seem overly concerned about the elder’s finances?
  • Does the caregiver often speak for the elder, even when the elder is present?
  • Does the caregiver have no means of support other than the elder’s income?