In Texas, elder abuse is commonly defined as acts that isolate, verbally harm or physically harm a person 65 or older. An elderly person suffering abuse, or a person who suspects an elderly individual is being abused, should report the abuse to 911 or their local law enforcement agency, such as the city police department.
If the victim resides in a nursing home or an assisted living facility or in their own home and relies on a home health care provider, the person should contact the Texas Department of State Health Services at 800-458-9858.
Generally, the statute of limitations for elder abuse is two years from the date of abuse. The penalties for financial abuse differ according to the value of the property or money taken.
Types of Elder Abuse in Texas
The Texas Human Resources Code defines elder abuse as a negligent or wilful act to injure, unreasonably confine, intimidate or cruelly punish an elderly person or sexual abuse of an elderly person. Such acts must have resulted in physical or emotional harm to the elderly person.
Abuse includes involuntary seclusion, intimidation, humiliation, harassment, threats of punishment, deprivation of food and water, hitting, slapping, pinching, kicking and any type of corporal punishment.
Abuse also includes verbal abuse or oral, written or gestured language that includes disparaging or derogatory terms, even if the elderly person cannot hear or understand the terms.
What Is Neglect?
Neglect is defined as the failure of a caregiver to provide goods or services, including medical services, that are necessary to avoid physical or emotional harm or pain. For example, a caregiver who is required to help an elderly person remain self-sufficient and fails to provide groceries or food could be charged with neglect.
If an elderly person refuses the caregiver’s services, the caregiver should contact the elderly person’s family or a state agency to determine the appropriate course of action.
Neglect can result in starvation, dehydration, over- or under-medication, unsanitary living conditions and lack of personal hygiene. Neglected adults may lack heat, running water, electricity and medical care.
Financial Exploitation of Elderly in Texas
Exploitation of the elderly covers a caregiver’s illegal use of a senior’s resources for monetary or personal benefit, profit or gain. Exploitation can result in the loss of property, money or income.
A family member, friend, caregiver or employee at a care facility or nursing home is not allowed to take a senior’s money or personal property without the senior’s permission.
Financial abuse, including financial exploitation, of the elderly is determined to be a misdemeanor or a felony according to the value of the theft. Financial abuse includes taking an elderly person’s Social Security or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) checks and misusing a joint checking account.
Value of the Property
Severity of the Offense
Less than $100
Class B misdemeanor
Fine not to exceed $2,000 and incarceration up to 180 days
$100 or more, but less than $750
Class A misdemeanor
Fine not to exceed $4,000 and incarceration up to one year
$750 or more, but less than $2,500
State jail felony
Fine up to $10,000 and incarceration between 180 days and two years
$2,500 or more, but less than $30,000
Felony of the third degree
Fine up to $10,000 and incarceration between two and 10 years
$30,000 or more, but under $150,000
Felony of the second degree
Fine up to $10,000 and incarceration between two and 20 years
$150,000 or more
Felony of the first degree
Fine up to $10,000 and incarceration up to life, but not less than five years
Exploitation of People With Disabilities
Generally, the same statutes that protect elderly adults also protect persons with one or more disabilities. The same penalties for physical abuse or financial exploitation of an elderly person will be enforced against a person who abuses an individual with a disability.
Adult Protective Services (APS), a division of the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, is required to:
- Investigate reports of abuse, neglect and exploitation of adults who are elderly or have disabilities.
- Conduct investigations and provide services if these adults live in the community, such as in a group home for adults with developmental disabilities.
- Educate the public about preventing elder abuse.
APS can help a victim of abuse, neglect or exploitation to get short-term help with multiple services, including shelter, home repairs, food, transportation, managing money, medical care, home health care services and mental health services.
- Texas Department of Family and Protective Services: Report Abuse, Neglect or Exploitation
- Texas Penal Code: Title 5 Offenses Against the Person Chapter 22, Assaultive Offenses
- Attorney General of Texas: Elder Abuse
- The U.S. Department of Justice: Elder Abuse and Elder Financial Exploitation Statutes in Texas
- Texas Penal Code: Title 7 Offenses Against Property, Chapter 32 Fraud
- Texas Penal Code: Title 3, Punishments, Chapter 12, Punishments
- Texas Department of Family and Protective Services: Adult Protective Services (APS)
Jessica Zimmer is a journalist and attorney based in northern California. She has practiced in a wide variety of fields, including criminal defense, property law, immigration, employment law, and family law.