As the elderly population increases and people live longer, so does the likelihood of abuse, neglect and exploitation of vulnerable adults. Keep in mind that an adult does not have to be “elderly” to be a vulnerable adult. Any adult who is unable to protect himself or herself from abuse, neglect or exploitation by others because of a physical or mental impairment is a vulnerable adult.
In Missouri, reports for abuse, neglect and exploitation increased by an average of 9.6 percent over the last 5 years. Reports for adults with disabilities between 18 and 59 jumped 49.22 percent, while reports for those 60 and older increased 23.8 percent. These increases are likely to continue as more baby boomers turn 60.
What is Abuse?
Abuse happens to people of all ethnicities and income levels. It is the infliction of physical, sexual or emotional injury or harm including financial exploitation by any person, firm or corporation.
What is Neglect?
It is the failure to provide services to an eligible adult by any person, firm or corporation with a legal or contractual duty to do so; when such failure presents either an imminent danger to the health, safety, or welfare of the client or a substantial probability that death or serious physical harm would result.
What is Exploitation?
A person commits the crime of financial exploitation of an elderly or disabled person if such person knowingly and by deception, intimidation, or force obtains control over the elderly or disabled person’s property with the intent to permanently deprive that person of the use, benefit or possession of his or her property, thereby benefiting such person or detrimentally affecting the elderly or disabled person. Financial exploitation occurs with alarming frequency and in many cases goes unreported because the victim may not be aware of the ways in which he or she is being exploited.
Who can Report Abuse and What Information Do I Have to Report?
Anyone who suspects someone is being abused, neglected, or exploited can make a report. Certain professionals, however, are mandated by law to report. For more information, go to www.health.mo.gov.
What Happens After I Make a Report?
If the alleged victim lives in his or her own home or community, an investigator will help the alleged victim determine the services or interventions needed to stop or alleviate the abuse.
If the alleged victim lives in a long-term care facility, the department’s Division of Regulation and Licensure staff conducts an investigation. Complaint investigations are handled in accordance with state statute. Reports or complaints are generally initiated within 24 hours.
If you suspect someone is being abused, neglected or exploited, call Missouri’s Elder Abuse and Neglect Hotline at 800-392-0210. The hotline operates 365 days per year from 7 a.m. to 12 a.m. Hearing-impaired persons may call the Telecommunications Device for the Deaf (TDD), at 800-735-2466.
Source: Missouri Department of Health & Senior Services