Clients rely on us and others to care for them and to help them live out their lives safel with dignity and respect. A client can be physically, emotionally, or even sexually abused by a family member, trusted neighbor, a seemingly friendly Caregiver, or person who is paid to provide their care. The abuser could be young, old, black, white, male, female, well-to-do or scraping to get by. There is no definite description that fits all abusers. Many times the victim lives with someone who controls their access to the outside world, plus their finances, meals, medication, and everything else. No one may see the bruises or the frightened looks in their eyes.
Indicators are signs or clues that abuse has occurred, or that it is likely to occur. Some of the indicators listed below can be explained by other causes; however, when the following indicators are present and cannot be explained by other causes, they may be “red flags” to you. You can help protect the Client if you know these signs:
Within some cultural groups, it is the son who typically assumes responsibility for the care of elderly family members. As sons become westernized, many neglect their elders or pass the responsibility on to daughters. One elderly Client stated that her “life was as good as over” because her son no longer provided care.
Elderly immigrants whose children had sponsored them were found in several instances that children reneged on their agreements and told the family members that they would have to return to their countries of origin.
One elderly Enrollee was found sleeping on a pile of quilts on the floor. This arrangement was, in fact, perfectly acceptable to members of their cultural group.
Adult Protective Services (APS) is the only statewide service in Tennessee and Georgia mandated to intervene when adults with mental and/or physical impairments are in danger because they are unable to provide for their own needs, or when others responsible for their care abuse, neglect or exploit them.
If a Client or their family is abusive to you, remove yourself from immediate danger and call your supervisor. However, do not leave the Client completely alone if the Caregiver is not present.
If you suspect that a Client is being abused, do not confront the suspected abuser. Report this information to your supervisor and APS as soon as possible. The law says “any person who suspects, observes or is made aware of the possibility of abuse, neglect or exploitation of a vulnerable adult shall make a report to the Department of Human Services, Adult Protective Services Division.” If you suspect another staff member is abusing the Client it is your duty to report this to your supervisor and directly to APS. The number to call and report this is 1-888-277-8366 or 1-888-APS-TENN (TN) or 1-888-774-0152 (GA).