Vulnerable Adults are protected under Florida Chapter 415

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 Exploitation of Elderly

 Elder abuse is a general term used to describe certain types of harm to older adults. Other terms commonly used include: elder mistreatment, senior abuse, abuse in later life, abuse of older adults, abuse of older women, and abuse of older men.

 Patient in WheelchairOne of the more commonly accepted definitions of elder abuse is a single, or repeated act, or lack of appropriate action, that occurs within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust which causes harm or distress to an older person.

 Elderly people can become vulnerable to exploitation by people they trust. In Florida, committing physical abuse or neglect of elderly adults is a serious injustice.

Read our Blog Post: Vigilance needed to prevent nursing home neglect 

The Florida Adult Protective Services Program is charged with protecting vulnerable adults from being harmed (Chapter 415, F.S.). These adults may experience abuse, neglect, or exploitation by second parties or may fail to take care of themselves adequately. Florida statutes require any person who knows or who has reasonable cause to suspect any abuse of vulnerable adults to report that information to the Florida Abuse Hotline.

The Florida Abuse Hotline screens allegations of adult abuse/neglect to determine whether the information meets the criteria of an abuse report. If the criteria is met, a protective investigation is initiated to confirm whether or not there is evidence that abuse, neglect, or exploitation occurred; whether there is an immediate or long-term risk to the victim; and whether the victim needs additional services to safeguard his or her well-being.

Florida Statute §415.1111 provides a civil cause of action for abuse of these protected adults.  œ A vulnerable adult who has been abused, neglected, or exploited as specified in this chapter has a cause of action against any perpetrator and may recover actual and punitive damages for such abuse, neglect, or exploitation. The action may be brought by the vulnerable adult, or that person’s guardian, by a person or organization acting on behalf of the vulnerable adult with the consent of that person or that person’s guardian, or by the personal representative of the estate of a deceased victim without regard to whether the cause of death resulted from the abuse, neglect, or exploitation. The action may be brought in any court of competent jurisdiction to enforce such action and to recover actual and punitive damages for any deprivation of or infringement on the rights of a vulnerable adult. A party who prevails in any such action may be entitled to recover reasonable attorney’s fees, costs of the action, and damages. The remedies provided in this section are in addition to and cumulative with other legal and administrative remedies available to a vulnerable adult.

 Florida Statute 415.102 defines the relevant terms.  For example:

(1) Abuse means any willful act or threatened act by a relative, caregiver, or household member which causes or is likely to cause significant impairment to a vulnerable adult’s physical, mental, or emotional health. Abuse includes acts and omissions.

(5)ƒœCaregiver means a person who has been entrusted with or has assumed the responsibility for frequent and regular care of or services to a vulnerable adult on a temporary or permanent basis and who has a commitment, agreement, or understanding with that person or that person’s guardian that a caregiver role exists. œCaregiver includes, but is not limited to, relatives, household members, guardians, neighbors, and employees and volunteers of facilities as defined in subsection (9).

(7)(a) Exploitation means a person who:

  1. Stands in a position of trust and confidence with a vulnerable adult and knowingly, by deception or intimidation, obtains or uses, or endeavors to obtain or use, a vulnerable adult’s funds, assets, or property with the intent to temporarily or permanently deprive a vulnerable adult of the use, benefit, or possession of the funds, assets, or property for the benefit of someone other than the vulnerable adult; or
  2. Knows or should know that the vulnerable adult lacks the capacity to consent, and obtains or uses, or endeavors to obtain or use, the vulnerable adult’s funds, assets, or property with the intent to temporarily or permanently deprive the vulnerable adult of the use, benefit, or possession of the funds, assets, or property for the benefit of someone other than the vulnerable adult.

(16)ƒœNeglect means the failure or omission on the part of the caregiver or vulnerable adult to provide the care, supervision, and services necessary to maintain the physical and mental health of the vulnerable adult, including, but not limited to, food, clothing, medicine, shelter, supervision, and medical services, which a prudent person would consider essential for the well-being of a vulnerable adult. The term œneglect also means the failure of a caregiver or vulnerable adult to make a reasonable effort to protect a vulnerable adult from abuse, neglect, or exploitation by others. œNeglect is repeated conduct or a single incident of carelessness which produces or could reasonably be expected to result in serious physical or psychological injury or a substantial risk of death.
(27)ƒœVulnerable adult means a person 18 years of age or older whose ability to perform the normal activities of daily living or to provide for his or her own care or protection is impaired due to a mental, emotional, sensory, long-term physical, or developmental disability or dysfunction, or brain damage, or the infirmities of aging.
How To Report Adult Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation
By Phone: Call Florida Abuse Hotline at 1-800-96-ABUSE (1-800-962-2873). Press 2 to report suspected abuse, neglect or exploitation of the elderly or a vulnerable adult. This toll free number is available 24/7.

TDD (Telephone Device for the Deaf): 1-800-453-5145

By Fax: To make a report via fax, please send a detailed written report with your name and contact telephone to 1-800-914-0004.
To report online: Go to DCF Web site  or 

Other related blog posts:
How to Prevent Falls in Nursing Home
Elopement: A Type of Neglect

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