The Elder Abuse and Dependent Adult Civil Protection Act (EADACPA) provides that a protective order may be sought to protect an elder or dependent adult from abuse. Welfare and Institutions Code section 15610.07 defines abuse broadly to include:

  • Physical abuse;
  • Neglect;
  • Abandonment;
  • Isolation;
  • Abduction;
  • Other treatment resulting in physical harm or pain or mental suffering;
  • Deprivation by a care custodian of good or services that are necessary to avoid physical harm or mental suffering; and
  • Financial abuse.

The petition may be filed by the elder or dependent adult or on their behalf by the following persons and entities (Welf. & Inst. Code, § 15657.03.):

  • A conservator or trustee of the elder or dependent adult;
  • An attorney-in-fact of an elder or dependent adult acting within the authority of a power of attorney;
  • A person appointed as guardian ad litem for the elder or dependent adult;
  • A county adult protective services agency (provided that specific circumstances are met); and
  • Another person legally authorized to seek such relief.

Although isolation has always been a tactic of abuse, the COVID-19 pandemic made isolation of elder and dependent adults easier and drew the attention of advocates and the legislature.

In response, the legislature enacted AB 1243 (Stats. 2021, ch. 273), which expands protection for victims of isolation abuse. The legislature declared:

[O]ne way perpetrators of domestic violence, including elder and dependent adult abuse, are able to continue with their abuse is by preventing trusted friends and family members from seeing or contacting a vulnerable adult. As the vulnerable adult is isolated, it becomes more and more difficult for others to identify signs of abuse. The isolation also allows the perpetrator to potentially take over finances and hide any indications that they are doing so. The pandemic and resulting stay-at-home orders, as well as older adults’ vulnerability to COVID-19, have amplified the need for additional protections, as well as creative ways to ensure older adults remain connected to their communities.

Beginning Jan. 1, 2023, the list of people who may petition on behalf of the elder or dependent adult will also include “interested party.” An interested party is defined as “an individual with a personal, preexisting relationship with the elder or dependent adult.” (Welf. & Inst. Code, § 15657.09(b)(3), effective Jan. 1, 2023.) A preexisting relationship may be shown by a description of the individual’s past involvement with the elder or dependent adult and time spent together, and any other proof that the individual spent time with the elder or dependent adult. (Welf. & Inst. Code, § 15657.09(b)(3), effective Jan. 1, 2023.)

The interested party may seek relief on behalf of the elder or dependent adult if:

  • The alleged abuse in the petition is isolation; and
  • The relief sought is an order enjoining the isolation.

Actionable isolation includes any of the following (Welf. & Inst. Code, § 15610.43(a).):

  • Acts intentionally committed for the purpose of preventing, and that do prevent, an elder or dependent adult from receiving his or her mail or telephone calls;
  • Telling a caller or prospective visitor that an elder or dependent adult is not present, does not wish to talk with the caller, or does not wish to meet with the visitor when the statement is false, is contrary to the express wishes of the elder or dependent adult, whether he or she is competent or not, and is made for the purpose of preventing the elder or dependent adult from having contact with family, friends, or concerned persons;
  • False imprisonment, as defined under Penal Code section 236; or
  • Physical restraint of an elder or dependent adult for the purpose of preventing the elder or dependent adult from meeting with visitors.

After notice to the respondent and a hearing, the court may grant an order enjoining isolation if the court finds, by a preponderance of evidence, that (Welf. & Inst. Code, § 15657.09(b)(3), effective Jan. 1, 2023.):

  • The respondent’s past act or acts of isolation of the elder or dependent adult repeatedly prevented contact with the interested party;
  • The elder or dependent adult expressly desires contact with the interested party; and
  • The respondent’s isolation of the elder or the dependent adult from the interested party was not in response to an actual or threatened abuse of the elder or dependent adult by the interested party or the elder or dependent adult’s desire not to have contact with the interested party.

For more on protective orders available for elder and dependent adults, see Elder Law Litigation (Cal. CEB), chapter 8

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