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Is Elder Abuse a Felony?

Elder abuse can be either a misdemeanor or a felony depending on where the crime is committed and how serious it is. An example of misdemeanor elder abuse may be reckless neglect, while an example of felony elder abuse might be violence against an older adult at a nursing home.

Elder Abuse Felonies Explained

Elder abuse is either an intentional act or a failure to act that causes harm to an older adult. It can also be an act that comes with a risk of harm.

Although all elder abuse cases are serious crimes, not all are felonies. Some are considered misdemeanors, which carry less severe legal penalties. Misdemeanors are generally punished through fines and community service while felonies are typically punished through jail time.

Another key difference is that each state has its own laws for what is considered felony elder abuse. Yet no matter the circumstances, those who abuse seniors deserve punishments that fit the crime through the civil and/or criminal justice systems.

Examples of People Charged With Elder Abuse Felonies

Elder abuse often is conducted by someone that the older adult trusts. It may be a caregiver at a nursing home or a family member. It is often thought of as violence or sexual abuse, but it can also be the neglect of an older adult’s basic needs.

Here are two recent examples of elder abuse that resulted in felony charges.

Elder Abuse in Sandy Springs

In Sandy Springs, Georgia, three former nursing home employees were arrested and charged with felony nursing home neglect, elder abuse, and aggravated battery.

The employees allegedly failed to conduct a swallow test on an older patient before feeding him. The patient choked on his food and then died two days later.

Elder Abuse in Lafayette

In Lafayette, Georgia, at least three residents accused a nursing home employee of sexual abuse. The employee is currently on the run from the police but is expected to be charged with felony sexual assault charges when caught.

Two other employees have already been charged with abuse, neglect, or exploitation of an elderly person for not reporting the allegations to law enforcement when they were notified by residents.

How Will I Know if Elder Abuse Is a Felony?

Elder abuse is generally considered a felony if it involves:

  • Financial exploitation
  • Violence
  • Extreme neglect
  • Exposure to life-threatening danger

There is some variation from state to state, but you can typically expect those types of elder abuse cases to be labeled felonies and not misdemeanors.

Of course, the only way to know for sure if elder abuse is a felony is to get the police involved. Always call 911 if you think a loved one is in life-threatening danger from elder abuse. Law enforcement may be able to charge the alleged perpetrator.

If you aren’t sure if nursing home abuse or neglect has taken place, consider different options before getting law enforcement involved, such as a long-term care ombudsman or a senior advocacy group.

These groups can study your loved one’s case and see if they’re getting proper care or not.

What Can You Do After Someone Is Charged With a Felony for Elder Abuse?

Once someone is charged with an elder abuse felony, see what happens in their case. If found guilty, you may be able to take civil action to pursue financial compensation from them.

Did You Know

Civil court is different from criminal proceedings. In civil court, victims may be awarded financial compensation. Criminal courts are focused on punishing wrongdoers with jail time.

Compensation from civil nursing home abuse lawsuit can provide you with financial compensation to pay for medical bills and improve quality of life. You have a right to seek out this compensation after the suffering you endured.

Report Elder Abuse and Keep Your Loved Ones Safe

If you or a loved one has suffered from elder abuse, know that you are not alone and that you can get help.

The first thing you should do is contact law enforcement so that they can investigate the alleged crime. The next thing you should do is look into your legal options and see if compensation may be available.

Learn more about reporting abuse and seeking compensation with a free case review. Our team can tell you more about the possible signs of elder abuse and recommend the next steps.

Nursing Home Abuse Support Team

The Nursing Home Abuse Center (NHAC) was founded to bring justice to those affected by nursing home and elder abuse. Our mission is to educate and empower victims of abuse and their families to take a stand against this unlawful mistreatment. We work to return dignity back to those who have been broken down by nursing home abuse and neglect.

  1. Catoura, Catherine. “3 Arrested Following Investigation into Abuse, Neglect at Local Senior Living Facility.” Retrieved 30 Oct. 2020, from:
  2. The United States Department of Justice. “Elder Abuse and Elder Financial Exploitation Statutes.” Retrieved 30 Oct. 2020, from:
  3. Maggiore, S. “LaFayette Police: More Nursing Home Residents Come Forward with Claims of Sexual Abuse.” Retrieved 30 Oct. 2020, from: