Every June, Olmsted County recognizes Vulnerable Adult Abuse Awareness Month to increase awareness and prevention of abuse of elderly and other vulnerable populations. This proclamation coincides with the international World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, which is recognized by the International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse and the World Health Organization on June 15.
Vulnerable adult abuse has many types: physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, financial exploitation and scams, and neglect. The most common types of abuse are emotional and financial exploitation, with the perpetrators of abuse often being family members.
Vulnerable adult abuse is not uncommon. Research cited by the National Center on Elder Abuse shows that about 1 in 10 older adults have been a victim of abuse within the last year. However, incidents of abuse are largely unreported – for every case reported, it’s estimated that 24 cases have gone unreported.
“While many professions are required to make reports of suspected maltreatment – like social services, law enforcement, and educators – anyone can report maltreatment and remain anonymous,” said Olmsted County Director of Adult and Family Services Amy Thompson. “It is important for all members of our community to familiarize themselves with the types of abuse, as well as the signs of abuse, and then make reports when they see or suspect maltreatment is occurring.”
Reports of maltreatment can be either routed to the state or to local Adult Protective Services (APS) for screening and investigation. In Olmsted County, APS is comprised of four full-time investigation social workers and one full-time detective from the Olmsted County Sherriff’s Office (OSCO). The partnership between APS and OCSO allows for more streamlined collaboration when the abuse is deemed to be criminal in nature. When investigating allegations of maltreatment, the team maintains a delicate balance between protecting the safety of the individual and protecting the right to self-determination. This means that the individual’s input and feedback is essential in creating plans to ensure current and future safety from abuse.