Elder Abuse Statistics in California

Elder abuse is a pressing concern in California, affecting thousands of older adults each year. The issue encompasses various forms of mistreatment, including physical, emotional, sexual, and financial abuse, as well as neglect. Understanding the statistics and dynamics of elder abuse in California is crucial for developing effective prevention and intervention strategies. This article delves into the prevalence, types, and reporting of elder abuse in California, offering a comprehensive overview of the current situation.

Prevalence of Elder Abuse in California

California is home to a large and growing elderly population. According to the California Department of Aging, the state’s elderly population is expected to reach 8.6 million by 2030, representing nearly 20% of the total population. With this demographic shift, elder abuse has become an increasingly critical issue.

Reported Cases

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) and Adult Protective Services (APS) are key agencies in the state that handle reports of elder abuse. In recent years, these agencies have seen a significant increase in reported cases. According to CDSS, in the fiscal year 2019-2020, APS received over 191,000 reports of elder and dependent adult abuse. This marked a substantial rise from previous years, highlighting the growing awareness and reporting of such incidents.

Underreporting Issues

Despite the increase in reported cases, elder abuse remains significantly underreported. The National Council on Aging (NCOA) estimates that only 1 in 24 cases of elder abuse are reported to authorities. Various factors contribute to this underreporting, including fear of retaliation, lack of awareness about how to report abuse, and the victim’s dependency on the abuser.

Types of Elder Abuse in California

Elder abuse in California manifests in several forms, each with its own set of alarming statistics.

Physical Abuse

Physical abuse involves the use of force that may result in bodily injury, pain, or impairment. This type of abuse includes hitting, slapping, burning, or using physical restraints. According to the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA), physical abuse accounts for approximately 15.7% of reported elder abuse cases in the United States, and similar trends are observed in California.

Emotional or Psychological Abuse

Emotional or psychological abuse includes verbal assaults, threats, harassment, and intimidation. This form of abuse can be as damaging as physical abuse, leading to long-term psychological trauma. Data from the California APS indicates that emotional abuse is reported in around 7.3% of elder abuse cases.

Sexual Abuse

Sexual abuse involves non-consensual sexual contact of any kind with an elderly person. Although it is one of the least reported forms of elder abuse, it has severe physical and emotional consequences. In California, sexual abuse is reported in approximately 1.9% of elder abuse cases, according to APS data.

Financial Abuse

Financial abuse, or exploitation, involves the illegal or improper use of an elder’s funds, property, or assets. This type of abuse is particularly prevalent and has significant financial impacts. The National Adult Protective Services Association (NAPSA) reports that financial exploitation is the most common form of elder abuse, accounting for nearly 36.5% of cases in California.


Neglect is the failure to fulfill a caregiver’s obligations, resulting in harm or distress to the elder. It includes failing to provide necessary food, shelter, healthcare, or protection. Neglect is a major concern in California, with APS reporting it in about 20.4% of elder abuse cases.

Factors Contributing to Elder Abuse in California

Several factors contribute to the prevalence of elder abuse in California:

Social Isolation

Social isolation is a significant risk factor for elder abuse. Older adults who are isolated are more vulnerable to abuse because they lack a support network that can intervene or report suspicious activities.


Elders who depend on others for daily care are at higher risk of abuse, especially if the caregiver is overwhelmed or lacks proper training. Dependency can lead to power imbalances that abusers exploit.

Cognitive Impairments

Conditions such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease increase the risk of abuse. Elders with cognitive impairments may not fully understand or remember instances of abuse, making it easier for abusers to take advantage of them.

Caregiver Stress

Caregivers who are under significant stress or burdened with responsibilities are more likely to perpetrate abuse. Lack of support and resources for caregivers can exacerbate this problem.

Reporting and Addressing Elder Abuse

Reporting Mechanisms

California has established several mechanisms for reporting elder abuse. The California Department of Justice operates the Bureau of Medi-Cal Fraud and Elder Abuse (BMFEA), which investigates and prosecutes cases of elder abuse. Additionally, the APS hotline is available for reporting suspected abuse.

Legal Protections

California has robust legal protections for elders, including the Elder Abuse and Dependent Adult Civil Protection Act (EADACPA). This legislation provides civil remedies for victims of elder abuse and imposes stricter penalties on perpetrators.

Prevention and Intervention

Efforts to prevent and intervene in elder abuse include public awareness campaigns, caregiver support programs, and training for professionals who work with elders. Organizations like the California Elder Justice Coalition work to promote policies and practices that protect vulnerable adults.

The Role of an Elder Abuse Attorney

A San Diego elder abuse attorney can help victims and their families seek justice and compensation. They assist in navigating the legal complexities, gathering evidence, and representing clients in court to ensure the abuser is held accountable and the victim receives necessary reparations.


Elder abuse is a critical issue in California, affecting thousands of older adults each year. The increasing number of reported cases underscores the need for continued vigilance and improved intervention strategies. By understanding the prevalence and types of elder abuse, as well as the factors that contribute to it, we can better protect our elderly population and ensure they live with dignity and respect.


  1. California Department of Aging. (2020). California State Plan on Aging 2017-2021. Retrieved from https://www.aging.ca.gov
  2. California Department of Social Services. (2021). Adult Protective Services. Retrieved from https://www.cdss.ca.gov/adult-protective-services
  3. National Council on Aging. (2021). Elder Abuse Facts. Retrieved from https://www.ncoa.org/article/get-the-facts-on-elder-abuse
  4. National Center on Elder Abuse. (2021). Types of Abuse. Retrieved from https://ncea.acl.gov
  5. National Adult Protective Services Association. (2021). Financial Exploitation. Retrieved from https://www.napsa-now.org/get-informed/exploitation-resources