May Is Vulnerable Adult Abuse Prevention Month
According to the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), the difference between a vulnerable adult being abused or not might be you.
"The actions of a concerned friend or neighbor can protect a vulnerable adult from abuse or neglect, just as the lack of action might allow it," says Vivianne Chaumont, Director of the DHHS Division of Medicaid & Long Term Care. "It's up to all of us to ensure the safety of older citizens who are in danger."
Reports of vulnerable adult abuse have increased dramatically in recent years. According to Chaumont, in 2006, there were more than 9,000 contacts with the DHHS Adult Protective Services (APS), and over 7,000 of those alleged abuse or neglect of a vulnerable adult. APS responds to many varied reports of adult abuse or neglect. Examples include:
* An elderly woman who can't pay rent or buy groceries because a caregiver takes her Social Security check.
* A man with a disability is bullied and harmed by someone in his apartment complex.
* A woman with a severe disability is sexually abused and told not to tell.
* An elderly man is living alone in filthy, unsafe conditions.
While competent adults have the right to refuse services, APS workers investigate reports and can arrange services that reduce or eliminate an abusive or neglectful situation.
Chaumont urges anyone suspecting abuse of a vulnerable adult or neglect of an adult or person with a disability to notify law enforcement, call the statewide abuse hotline at 1-800-652-1999, or call the local DHHS office.
"The identity of a person who reports suspected cases is protected by law," Chaumont explains. "You don't have to be certain that a situation is abusive or neglectful. We'll look into it and find out."
"The best safeguard against abuse for a vulnerable elder or person with a disability may be our care and vigilance as neighbors and community members," she said.