Elder Abuse Laws in Texas
Under Texas law, certain groups of people are considered protected citizens. This usually includes young children and elderly people. Because these people may be more vulnerable to abuse due to their age or physical capabilities, the law affords them special consideration. For this reason, abusing members of these two groups can lead to harsh punishments.
Elder abuse can take many forms. It may be physical, emotional or financial. Texas laws are very clear that the abuse of elderly people will not be tolerated and will be punished harshly.
What Is Elder Abuse?
In Texas, a person who is aged 65 or older is considered an elderly person. Committing abuse against these people can be classified as elder abuse.
This type of abuse can take many forms, including:
- Physical abuse, such as hitting, pushing or slapping
- Emotional abuse, such as denying an elderly person in a care center the right to see their family
- Verbal abuse, such as calling an elderly person degrading names or terms
- Sexual abuse, such as rape or inappropriate contact
- Financial abuse, such as stealing money from elderly people or scamming them out of their money
Other crimes which target elderly individuals may also be considered abuse of the elderly. For example, stealing an elderly person’s prescription medications may be considered abusive behavior. Also, failing to provide proper care and attention to an elderly person who is confined to a hospital or a care facility may constitute elderly abuse.
- Amanda works as a nurse in a care home for senior citizens. She regularly slaps some of her patients when they don’t take their medicine and she keeps their rooms freezing cold if they do not give her money and prescription medication. Amanda is guilty of elderly abuse and may be arrested, prosecuted and convicted.
- Mark takes care of his elderly grandmother. As part of his caretaking routine, he cashes her Social Security checks for her each month. Without her permission, he takes $100 of this money each month and pockets it to spend it on himself. This is an example of elderly abuse because Mark is stealing money from an elderly person who needs the funds for living expenses.
- Maria is in charge of taking care of her grandfather. Whenever she picks up his prescriptions from the pharmacy, she keeps a bottle of his painkillers to sell to her friends. This is another example of elderly abuse because Maria is directly depriving an elderly person of the medication that they need to treat their illnesses.
How Elderly Abuse Is Investigated
In most cases, incidents of elderly abuse are investigated after a person files a complaint. This complaint can be made to law enforcement, to a caretaker or to the staff of a care facility.
When these complaints are made in Texas, they are sent to the department of Adult Protective Services, or APS. Just like Child Protective Services, this department investigates suspected incidents of abuse.
In an investigation, APS personnel may interview the alleged victim of the abuse as well as the alleged perpetrator. They may also interview friends, family members and other employees of a care facility.
During the investigation, the APS personnel may photograph or document signs of physical abuse such as bruising or swelling. They may check on pharmacy records to determine if an elderly person has had their medication stolen. They may also check security camera footage in care facilities to check for signs of elder abuse.
If the APS investigation turns up signs of elder abuse, the responsible party may be prosecuted, arrested and charged.
The penalties for an incident of elder abuse can be very severe. They include, but are not limited to:
- Jail or prison time
- Steep fines
- Loss of license to practice medicine or elder care
- Restraining orders to stay away from the victim
- Banning from practicing medicine or elder care in the future
- Termination from a job at a hospital or care facility
In most cases, non-violent forms of elder abuse can be punished with fines, probation and the loss of a job and license. However, if a case of financial abuse or theft becomes very serious, then jail or prison time could be the result.
Elder abuse which takes the form of physical or sexual violence can lead to jail or prison time on charges of assault and/or sexual assault. In Texas, if the victim of an assault or sexual assault is an elderly person, the penalty category for that crime can automatically be upgraded to the next highest category. This can lengthen prison time and the amount of fines significantly.