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There are many kinds of neglect and abuse. Unfortunately, abuse and neglect of our senior citizens is more common than you might think. Elders are abused in their own homes, in the homes of their relatives, and even in facilities that are responsible for their health and care. There are many kinds of abuse and neglect: physical abuse such as hitting, shoving, or restraining; financial abuse such as forgery, identity theft, misuse of elders’ money, or stealing their assets/possessions; social abuse, such as purposefully isolating, humiliating, blaming, or intimidating; sexual abuse; and neglect, such as failure to fulfill caretaking obligations. Unfortunately, service providers can also sometimes neglect or abuse elders, including withholding appropriate care, charging fees without providing a service, over/under medicating, or committing insurance fraud. Oftentimes elders experience self-neglect, sometimes as a result of a physical or mental impairment or diminished capacity, which may result in dehydration, malnourishment, or unsafe living conditions. In many cases, elders refuse to seek assistance, feeling ashamed about needing help or worried about losing their independence.
HHSA’s Adult Protective Services (APS) program is responsible for responding to reports of abuse or neglect and for helping dependent or elderly (age 65 or over) adults. Services are free of charge and all elderly and dependent adults (including the disabled ages 18–64) are eligible for services if there is reasonable suspicion of abuse or neglect. APS services are warranted for a variety of reasons. The most common is self-neglect, where the safety or well-being of an adult is at risk due to the inability of a person to take care of his or her own basic needs, such as taking medicines, managing money, keeping the home clean, having adequate food, doing laundry, or bathing. Protective services may also be needed in cases where disabled or elderly adults may be the victims of others, as in the case of financial fraud or physical abuse. In addition to investigating requests for help, APS coordinates or provides: counseling for elderly or disabled persons as well as for their families; assistance with money management; referral to legal services; help finding other living arrangements; and connections to other community services and benefits.
If you are worried about your own well-being and you have no one who is willing or able to help in a responsible manner, APS can help. If you are a family member, a friend, or a neighbor and are worried about an elderly or dependent adult’s well-being, you can call the local APS program and request help. If you prefer, you do not have to identify yourself.
When there are no relatives or friends who are able to act as a caretaker for a person who does not have the capacity to take care of him- or herself, the Public Guardian’s Office may be able to step in and take charge of a person’s personal care or finances. Generally, people who lack this capacity cannot understand information given to them; cannot retain that information long enough to make decisions; cannot consider the information available to make decisions, and cannot communicate their decisions. Often such persons have been victims of abuse or neglect. The Public Guardian’s Office conducts investigations to determine if their services are needed and can petition the court to conserve. Services to conservatees may include arranging placement, health care, food, clothing, personal care, housekeeping help, and transportation. Decisions regarding living arrangements are made based on what is most appropriate, safe, and comfortable, and that allows as much independence as possible. Being under the care of the Public Guardian’s Office also helps prevent further victimization.
If you believe that someone needs this type of assistance, feel free to contact the Public Guardian’s Office to find help.
We all have the right to be treated with courtesy and respect and to be free of neglect and abuse. Adult Protective Services and the Public Guardian’s Office help to give the elderly and vulnerable the protection and care they need and deserve.