May Is Vulnerable Adult Awareness Month
Last year there were over 10,000 reports of suspected abuse or neglect of a vulnerable adult in Nebraska, up from 7,000 reports in 2006. Many were financially exploited, often to the point of destitution, according to the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).
“We tend to be more aware of abuse or neglect of children, but the sad fact is that frail and elderly adults are at equal risk and deserve our protection,” said Todd Reckling, director of the Division of Children and Family Services in DHHS. “Many times the mistreatment is carried out by the victims’ own family members or other caregivers, the very people upon whom they must rely for care.”
A vulnerable adult is someone 18 or older who has serious disabilities or medical conditions that make it hard to care for themselves, who is being harmed or taken advantage of by someone else, or who can’t meet his or her own needs.
“Only one in five cases of abuse of a vulnerable adult is reported,” Reckling said. “If you recognize the signs of abuse, neglect and financial exploitation, you can watch out for your friends and neighbors. If you suspect abuse or neglect, you have an obligation to report it.”
Signs of abuse, neglect or exploitation can include
* Repeated and unexplained injuries and bruises;
* Absence of necessities including food and utilities;
* Unusual bank account activity or items missing from the home; or
* Lack of personal or medical care or essential services.
While competent adults have the right to refuse services, Adult Protective Services (APS) workers investigate reports and can arrange services that reduce or eliminate an abusive or neglectful situation.