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Adultos Vulnerables

VULNERABLE ADULTS ABUSE

It is estimated that 2.1 million older Americans are victims of abuse each year and approximately 80-90% of those cases go unreported.

Elders are not the only vulnerable adults who are victims of abuse. According to Disability Rights Washington, individuals with disabilities are twice as likely to be victims of violent crimes.

During the Month of October, the Safe Environment Program is highlighting Vulnerable Adult Abuse. Click the links below to learn more about Vulnerable Adults, the signs & symptoms of abuse and what you can do to help.

WHO IS A VULNERABLE ADULT?

Vulnerable Adults include:

  • Any person over 60 unable to care for him or herself;

  • Certain individuals with developmental disabilities;

  • Anyone over the age of 18 who has a legal guardian;

  • Individuals receiving in-home care through a licensed health, hospice or home health care agency or from an aide hired on their own;

  • Certain individuals receiving pastoral care services; or

  • Individuals incarcerated in a correctional facility.

WHAT IS VULNERABLE ADULT ABUSE?

According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, vulnerable adult abuse refers to any intentional or negligent act by a family member, caregiver or any other person that causes harm or serious risk of harm to a vulnerable adult.

WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF VULNERABLE ADULT ABUSE?

PHYSICAL ABUSE – Non-accidental use of force against a vulnerable adult that results in physical pain, injury or impairment. Such abuse includes not only physical assaults such as hitting or shoving but also the inappropriate use of drugs, restraints or confinement.

EMOTIONAL ABUSE – Verbal attacks, threats, rejection, isolation or belittling acts that cause, or could cause, mental anguish, pain or distress to a vulnerable adult.

Verbal forms of emotional abuse include:

  • Intimidation through yelling or threats

  • Humiliation and ridicule

  • Habitual blaming or scapegoating

Non-verbal psychological abuse can include:

  • Ignoring the vulnerable adult

  • Isolating a vulnerable adult from friends or activities

  • Terrorizing or menacing the vulnerable adult

SEXUAL ABUSE – Sexual contact that is forced, tricked, threatened or otherwise coerced upon a vulnerable adult, including anyone who is unable to grant permission. This may include physical sex acts, showing pornography, forcing the person to watch sex acts or forcing the vulnerable adult to undress.

NEGLECT – Failure or refusal to provide for a vulnerable adult’s safety, physical or emotional needs. This may include failure to provide food, water, clothing, medications or assistance with the activities of daily living and personal hygiene.

FINANCIAL EXPLOITATION – Theft, misuse or neglect of authority, fraud (scams) and use of undue influence as a lever to gain control over the money or property of a vulnerable adult.

Examples of financial exploitation:

  • Misuse personal checks, credit cards or accounts

  • Stealing cash, checks or household goods

  • Forgery of signature on documents or checks

  • Identity theft

WHAT ARE THE WARNING SIGNS OF VULNERABLE ADULT ABUSE?

GENERAL SIGNS

  • Changes in personality or behavior in the vulnerable adult

  • Frequent arguments between vulnerable adult and caregiver, family member or other trusted person; tension in relationship.

  • Sudden dislike or fear of caregiver, family member or other trusted person

PHYSICAL ABUSE

  • Unexplainable injuries, such as bruises, abrasions, welts, burns, pressure marks

  • Broken bones, sprains or dislocations

  • Broken eyeglasses or frames

  • Signs of being restrained, such as rope marks on wrists or symmetrical bruising

EMOTIONAL ABUSE

  • Unexplained withdrawal from normal activities

  • Sudden change in alertness

  • Unusual depression

  • Behavior by vulnerable adult that resembles dementia: rocking, sucking or mumbling

SEXUAL ABUSE

  • Bruises around private areas

  • Unexplained disease or bleeding in private areas

  • Torn, stained or bloody underclothing

NEGLECT

  • Bed sores/pressure ulcers

  • Unusual weight loss, malnutrition or dehydration

  • Unattended medical needs

  • Unsanitary living conditions

  • Poor hygiene

 

FINANCIAL EXPLOITATION

  • Sudden changes in financial situation

  • Suspicious changes in will, financial trusts or power of attorney

  • Unusual bank withdrawals

  • Checks written as loans or gifts

  • Items or cash missing from household or room

  • Unnecessary or excessive services, goods or subscriptions

WHAT IS SELF-NEGLECT?

The inability to understand the consequences of one’s own actions or inaction, which leads to, or may lead to, harm or endangerment. This may include not eating, not taking proper medications, poor hygiene, not wearing appropriate clothing for the weather, unsafe living conditions and hoarding.

WHY ARE VULNERABLE ADULTS AT RISK?

Abuse of a vulnerable adult can happen anywhere and to anyone. It can occur in the home, nursing home, hospitals or other institutions. Women are more likely to be victimized than men but people from all socio-economic groups, cultures and ethnicities can be abused.

Dementia, mental health issues, substance abuse and social isolation are issues that significantly increase the risk of abuse.

WHAT DO I DO IF I AM A VULNERABLE ADULT WHO IS BEING ABUSED?

Tell a family member, caregiver, doctor or other person you trust that you are being abused or call 1-866-END-HARM for assistance.

WHAT DO I DO IF I SUSPECT A VULNERABLE ADULT IS BEING ABUSED?

If you have reasonable cause to believe that a vulnerable adult is being harmed, please report the suspected abuse immediately.

Call 1-866-END-HARM (866-363-4276) immediately!

If it is an emergency you believe the vulnerable adult is in immediate danger, call 9-1-1.

Please remember you do NOT need to investigate the abuse. If you have reasonable cause to believe that an individual is being abused, it should be reported! Since most cases of abuse go undetected, don’t assume that someone else is reporting.

Individuals who make a good faith report to Washington State Department of Social & Health Services (DSHS) or local authorities are protected.


 

WHO IS A MANDATED REPORTER?

Washington State law requires the reporting of suspected abuse of a vulnerable adult immediately by persons in helping professions such as health care providers, law enforcement, social services and home or residential care providers.

According to the policies of the Archdiocese of Seattle, all Church Personnel are required to follow the mandated guidelines for reporting suspected abuse of minors and vulnerable adults. This includes all:

  • Priests (outside of sacramental confession)

  • Deacons

  • Candidates for ordination

  • Religious

  • Employees

  • Any individual with ongoing unsupervised contact with minors and vulnerable adults

WHAT CAN BE DONE TO PREVENT ABUSE OF VULNERABLE ADULTS?

  • Watch & listen for warning signs.

    • Keep an eye out for loved ones and neighbors who are vulnerable. Visit regularly.

    • Watch their medications. Are they being used too much/too little?

    • Are checks, cash or other items missing from the house?

 

  • Act immediately if you suspect abuse. Report any reasonable suspected abuse immediately.

  • Educate yourself and others how to recognize the signs of abuse and how to report it.

  • Get Involved! Volunteer with the vulnerable in your community.

If you are a caregiver, request help from friends, relatives or local respite care agencies when you need a break. Stay healthy and take care of yourself. Find a support group or seek counseling to help cope with the stress of care giving.

 

WHERE CAN I FIND MORE INFORMATION OR RESOURCES?

Special Thanks to:

King County Prosecutor’s Office, Elder and Vulnerable Adult Abuse Team; Aging & Disability Services (Washington State Department of Social & Health Services); American Psychological Association; Department of Justice – Office of Victims of Crimes; DAWN; Disability Rights Washington; Helpline.org; National Center on Elder Abuse; National Clearinghouse on Abuse in Later Life; National Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse