The Washington Office of the Attorney General defines a vulnerable adult as one who -- by virtue of age, physical injury, disability, disease, emotional or developmental disorders – is unable to independently provide for their own basic necessities of life. According to the National Health Service, adults who are most at risk of abuse at home include:
- those who are isolated and don't have much contact with friends, family or neighbors
- people with memory problems or difficulty communicating with others
- people who don't get on with their caregiver
- those whose caregiver is addicted to drugs or alcohol
- people whose caregiver depends on them for a home and financial and emotional support
What is vulnerable adult abuse?
Vulnerable adult abuse describes any intentional or negligent act by a caregiver or any other person that causes harm or a serious risk of harm to a vulnerable adult. It can include:
- pushing, hitting, punching
- shouting at, berating, intimidating, or threatening to harm an elderly person
- taking financial advantage of one who is lonely, vulnerable or has memory lapses
- taking money an elderly person needs, “borrowing” money with no intention to pay it back, tricking someone into buying something they have no use for
- neglecting an elderly person’s physical, medical and emotional needs or
- allowing an older adult to neglect their personal needs
What are the signs that a vulnerable adult is being abused?
The following signs may indicate abuse:
- unexplained injuries, bruises, burns, puncture wounds, cuts, sunken eyes and/or welts
- excessive fears, withdrawal, agitation
- sudden inability to pay bills, buy food or personal items
- changes in appetite or unusual weight gain or loss
- poor personal hygiene
- does not know personal finances or
- unexplained changes in health.
What can prevent abuse of vulnerable adults?
The Attorney General website suggests:
- nurture communities where elders are respected and honored
- report suspected abuse/mistreatment or self-neglect
- find sources of help for vulnerable adults and refer to them
- visit vulnerable individuals regularly and monitor the well being of elderly neighbors
- keep track of medication and doctors’ visits
- volunteer to help
- realize abuse can happen in your family or neighborhood
- speak up when something looks or sounds wrong
How can vulnerable adults protect themselves?
- don’t live with a person who has a background of violent behavior
- don’t hesitate to tell others if you are abused, mistreated, neglected (call your doctor, the clergy, a friend or family member)
- don’t leave cash or valuables out in the open
- don’t give friends or family money you need to live on
- don’t sign a document unless someone you trust reads it
- don’t allow anyone to keep details of your finances or property from you