Lincoln – Every year, Adult Protective Services investigates more than 3,000 allegations of abuse of vulnerable adults in Nebraska. With observance of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day on June 15, now is the time to learn the signs of abuse, neglect and exploitation of adults, said Courtney Phillips, chief executive officer of the Department of Health and Human Services.
“Of that number, more than 300 adults were found abused, neglected or exploited in 2015,” Phillips said. “Unfortunately, it’s estimated that for every reported case as many as 23 are unreported. That’s why it’s important that everyone know these signs so more vulnerable and senior adults can be protected.”
Usually, victims have disabilities, or are older, frail and depend on others to meet their most basic needs, Phillips said. They also can be isolated, ashamed or embarrassed, particularly if a family member is the abuser.
If abuse is suspected, call the Adult Abuse and Neglect Hotline at 1-800-652-1999.
“The state has an important role in providing protections and vigilance on behalf its vulnerable citizens,” said Attorney General Doug Peterson. “Sadly, at a time when they should be receiving respect and care from their communities, elders can find themselves in circumstances of neglect or abuse.”
“Many elderly are afraid to report abuse for fear that the abuse will become worse or that they will have no one to care for them,” said Cheryl Brunz, chair of the Nebraska Association of Area Agencies on Aging (AAA). “Self-neglect and financial exploitation are the most common situations that Adult Protective Services workers deal with. Local AAAs play a significant role in detecting and preventing elder abuse by helping at-risk or vulnerable seniors, providing community education and training, and participating in elder abuse prevention coalitions.”
Events will be held across the state as local AAAs and other organizations stage activities to promote World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, the Adult Abuse and Neglect Hotline, local services and to point out signs of elder abuse.
DHHS Adult Protective Services employees developed a toolkit with ideas and resources to help people understand vulnerable and elder abuse and how to effectively communicate these issues locally. Visit: www.dhhs.ne.gov/weaad to download the toolkit.
Key signs of abuse or neglect included in the toolkit are:
Unusual weight loss, malnutrition or dehydration;
Untreated physical problems, such as bed sores;
Unsanitary living conditions such as dirt, bugs, soiled bedding and clothes, poor hygiene;
Unsuitable clothing for weather;
Unsafe living conditions such as no heat or running water, faulty or exposed wiring, fire hazards; and
Desertion of a vulnerable adult at a public place.
Signs of financial exploitation, include:
Sudden changes in back accounts or banking practices such as unexplained withdrawals of large amounts of money;
Additional names on an older person’s bank cards or checking accounts;
Abrupt changes in a will or other financial documents;
Disappearance of funds, possessions or medications;
Unpaid bills or substandard care despite the availability of funds;
Evidence of the elder’s signature being forged;
The sudden appearance of previously uninvolved relatives;
Payment for unnecessary services; and
Reports from the individual of financial exploitation.