In 1982, California passed the Elder Abuse and Dependent Adult Civil Protection Act and became one of the first states to protect elderly and dependent adults from criminal abuse (physical, mental, and financial), abandonment, abduction, and neglect. Further private civil measures applied to the act in 1991 helped mitigate elder abuse. But by how much?
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, 1 in 10 adults over the age of 65 suffer from at least one type of abuse that often goes unnoticed. Fear of retaliation or lack of mental capacity are key reasons why 1 out of 24 cases goes unreported according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
More could still be done. Which is why Governor Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill (AB) 1243 into law in August of 2022, adding anti-isolation measures to the Elder Abuse Act.
What is AB 1243?
The rise of the COVID lockdowns made it clear that isolation was a danger to the mental, and sometimes physical, health of elder adults and dependents. When isolated from family, friends, and community, abuse of all forms could go unchecked. In some cases, it could expand and flourish without repercussions. Isolation itself may even be a way for a caregiver to cover up different types of abuse.
There was a limited number of parties who could petition for protection from isolation by a caregiver prior to signing AB 1243 into law. Once the law went into effect in January 2023, family members or friends were given the right to petition against forced isolation with an anti-isolation restraining order.
What is an isolation?
Isolation, as defined under AB 1243, is the recurring act of keeping a vulnerable adult from contact with a particular person, including phone calls, online communication, and in-person contact.
What is the impact of an anti-isolation restraining order?
You no longer have to be a conservator, trustee, or attorney-in-fact to file for an anti-isolation restraining order. Anyone with an interest in the party in question can petition to enjoin the abuser from isolating the elder or dependent adult from them.
Any petitioner must prove a pre-existing relationship to the elder or dependent adult — how they are related or the amount of time they spend with them. They must also prove that the interested party has been forcefully kept from seeing or communicating with the elder in question. In other words, the petitioner must prove the isolation is not due to the elder refusing to see the petitioner by their own recognizance.
Because this is often hard to determine due to the elder or dependent adult’s mental state, the court is obliged to use all means to determine the validity behind all claims made.
Be aware that AB 1243 does not apply to anyone who currently resides in a long-term care facility or healthcare facility.
If someone you care for is being isolated against their will, it may be time to take action. Call us for a consultation today.