Skip to main content

Are you a legal professional? Visit our professional site

Please enter a legal issue and/or a location
Begin typing to search, use arrow keys to navigate, use enter to select

Elder Abandonment

Elder abandonment is a form of elder abuse. It occurs when a person has assumed responsibility for providing care to an elderly individual -- but then deserts that individual. There are variations in how states define elder abandonment, but the general principles are the same.

Background on Elder Abandonment

Elder abandonment is generally defined as the purposeful and permanent desertion of an elderly person. The victim may be left at a hospital, a nursing home, or in a public location. Perhaps the abandoning person feels overburdened or believes he or she lacks the resources to care for the victim. Whatever the reason, one can only imagine the confusion and despair that the victim feels.

Statistics for elder abandonment are hard to come by because many incidents go unreported, and because abandonment is sometimes used interchangeably with elder neglect, which is the failure or refusal to fulfill one's duties or obligations to an elderly person.

Elder Abandonment Laws

Every state has some form of elder abandonment law. There are variations in language and applicability. California, for example, defines elder abandonment as the purposeful desertion of an elderly person by someone caring for that person. In California, any person who has care or custody of any elderly person is subject to this provision.

On the other hand, Delaware's abandonment law falls under "neglect," and is defined as the purposeful abandonment of an impaired adult. Note that the Delaware law applies only to the impaired elderly, while California's law applies to any elderly person.

Like Delaware, New York's abandonment law is termed "neglect." However, New York law contains two categories of neglect, "active" and "passive." The difference depends on whether the neglect was willful. Both of these neglect categories concern the failure by someone providing care to an elderly person to fulfill those care-taking duties.

On top of the state elder abandonment laws, the federal government has also enacted laws to protect older adults from abandonment. The federal Elder Justice Act requires certain individuals at long-term care facilities to report crimes committed against elderly residents. In order to prevent cases of abuse and abandonment, it's important for the elderly and those caring for them to know about their rights and responsibilities.

Spotting Elder Abandonment

An elderly person who is alone and who appears confused, lost, or frightened may be the victim of abandonment. Other signs of abandonment or neglect include the elderly person looking frail, appearing lonely or depressed, being malnourished or dehydrated, and having poor hygiene.

It is understandable that a person looking to help may worry that he or she is imposing or being rude by approaching a possible victim. If that is the case, calling a police officer, a park ranger, or a social worker would be a good option.

Getting Help

If you or someone you know may be the victim of elder abandonment, contact your local elder abuse agency. If you provide care to an elderly person and want to know more about your state's abandonment laws, you should consult with a lawyer who specializes in elder law.

You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help

Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.

Or contact an attorney near you:

Next Steps

Contact a qualified elder abuse attorney to help you and loved ones recognize and fight elder abuse.

Begin typing to search, use arrow keys to navigate, use enter to select

Help Me Find a Do-It-Yourself Solution

Can I Solve This on My Own or Do I Need an Attorney?

  • Complex abuse situations usually require a lawyer
  • A lawyer will take these matters seriously and enforce protections
  • Get tailored advice and ask your legal questions
  • Many attorneys offer free consultations

 If you need an attorney, find one right now

Copied to clipboard

Find a Lawyer

More Options