VULNERABLE ADULT & ELDER ABUSE RESOURCES

What is Vulnerable Adult Abuse?

Vulnerable adult abuse is a term used to describe any knowing, intentional, or negligent act by a caregiver or any other person that causes harm or a serious risk of harm to a vulnerable adult. Alaska law defines vulnerable adults as a person 18 years of age or older who, because of incapacity, mental illness, mental deficiency, physical illness or disability, advanced age, chronic use of drugs, chronic intoxication, or confinement is unable to meet their own needs or to seek help without assistance.

 

It has been estimated that roughly two-thirds of those harming a vulnerable adult are family members, most often the victim’s adult child or spouse. Research has shown that in most instances the abuser is financially dependent on the vulnerable adult’s resources and have problems related to alcohol and drugs.

TYPES OF ABUSE

The harm that vulnerable adults suffer may result from abandonment, abuse, exploitation, neglect or self-neglect. Following are types of maltreatment a vulnerable adult might experience: 

ABANDONMENT is the desertion of a vulnerable adult by a caregiver.

ABUSE is the intentional, knowing, or reckless non-accidental, non-therapeutic infliction of pain, injury, mental or emotional distress, or fear, including coercion and intimidation, and sexual assault.

EXPLOITATION is the unjust or improper use of another person or another person’s resources for one’s own profit or advantage, with or without the person’s consent and includes acts by a person who stands in a position of trust or confidence with a vulnerable adult or who knows or should know that the vulnerable adult lacks the capacity to consent that involve obtaining profit or advantage through undue influence, deception, fraud, intimidation, or breach of fiduciary duty.

NEGLECT is the intentional knowing or reckless failure by a caregiver to provide access to essential care or services, including food, clothing, shelter, medical care, and supervision. Caregivers are required to carry out a prescribed treatment plan necessary in maintaining the physical and mental health of the vulnerable adult. 

SELF-NEGLECT is the act or omission by a vulnerable adult that results, or could result, in the deprivation of essential services necessary to maintain minimal mental, emotional, or physical health and safety.

UNDUE INFLUENCE means the abuse by a person who stands in a position of trust or confidence of the person’s role, relationship, or authority to wrongfully exploit the trust, dependency, or fear of a vulnerable adult to gain control over the decision making of the vulnerable adult, including decision making related to finances, property, residence, and health care.

SIGNS & SYMPTOMS 

ABANDONMENT

  • deserting a vulnerable adult in a public place

  • deserting a vulnerable adult in his/her own home or living space

  • individual's report of being abandoned

ABUSE

PHYSICAL ABUSE

  • bruises, black eyes, welts, lacerations, and rope marks

  • broken bones

  • open wounds, cuts, punctures, untreated injuries in various stages of healing

  • broken eyeglasses/frames, or any physical signs of being punished or restrained

  • laboratory findings of either an overdose or under dose medications

  • individual's report being hit, slapped, kicked, or mistreated

  • vulnerable adult's sudden change in behavior

  • the caregiver's refusal to allow visitors to see a vulnerable adult alone

SEXUAL ABUSE

  • bruises around the breasts or genital area

  • unexplained venereal disease or genital infections

  • unexplained vaginal or anal bleeding

  • torn, stained, or bloody underclothing

  • an individual's report of being sexually assaulted or raped

EMOTIONAL ABUSE

  • being emotionally upset or agitated

  • being extremely withdrawn and non communicative or non responsive

  • unusual behavior usually attributed to dementia (e.g., sucking, biting, rocking)

  • nervousness around certain people

  • an individual's report of being verbally or mentally mistreated

EXPLOITATION

  • sudden changes in bank account or banking practice, including an unexplained withdrawal of large sums of money

  • adding additional names on bank signature cards

  • unauthorized withdrawal of funds using an ATM card

  • abrupt changes in a will or other financial documents

  • unexplained disappearance of funds or valuable possessions

  • bills unpaid despite the money being available to pay them

  • forging a signature on financial transactions or for the titles of possessions

  • sudden appearance of previously uninvolved relatives claiming rights to a vulnerable adult’s possessions

  • unexplained sudden transfer of assets to a family member or someone outside the family

  • providing services that are not necessary

  • individual's report of exploitation

NEGLECT

  • dehydration, malnutrition, untreated bed sores and poor personal hygiene

  • unattended or untreated health problems

  • hazardous or unsafe living condition (e.g., improper wiring, no heat or running water)

  • unsanitary and unclean living conditions (e.g., dirt, fleas, lice on person, soiled bedding, fecal/urine smell, inadequate clothing)

  • an individual's report of being mistreated

SELF-NEGLECT

  • dehydration, malnutrition, untreated or improperly attended medical conditions, and poor personal hygiene

  • hazardous or unsafe living conditions

  • unsanitary or unclean living quarters (e.g., animal/insect infestation, no functioning toilet, fecal or urine smell)

  • inappropriate and/or inadequate clothing, lack of the necessary medical aids

  • grossly inadequate housing or homelessness

  • inadequate medical care, not taking prescribed medications properly

REPORT VULNERABLE ADULT ABUSE

If you suspect that a vulnerable adult is experiencing abuse or neglect, SAFV urges you to report it. It is not your responsibility to determine whether your suspicions are correct, to confront the abuse, or to investigate. In fact, you should NOT investigate. If you make a report in good faith, you are immune from any civil or criminal liability. 

  • If you have reason to believe someone is in immediate danger, call 911. To report VULNERABLE ADULT ABUSE, call: Adult Protective Services (APS): 907-269-3666.

SAFV staff can support community members in making calls to APS. If you would like support or have any questions, please contact SAFV at 907-747-3370. 

SAFV employees are mandated reporters and are required by law to make reports of suspected or known abuse or neglect within 24 hours of learning about it. Check out our Mandatory Reporter Guidelines to find out what you will need to make a report. 

HOTLINES & RESOURCES

For more information about vulnerable adult abuse, visit Alaska's Department of Healthy and Social Services Adult Protective Services page or call 907-269-3666.