The real extent of adult abuse, neglect and exploitation is grossly unreported. The victims themselves are often hesitant to report mistreatment either because they are afraid of retaliation—physical or mental—or because they are simply unable to do so. Protecting older adults and incapacitated adults from abuse, neglect or exploitation means helping them to live in their own homes as long as possible, find appropriate living arrangements if necessary, and generally to remain as safe and self-sufficient as possible.
Even spotting a person who is a victim of abuse and in need of Adult Protective Services as they sit in a law office is not easy. Will you quickly notice telltale signs indicating that the person is not getting the care they need? Can you tell if the bruises or sores you see were inflicted intentionally? Is the person dressed appropriately or displaying signs of poor hygiene? Is the person experiencing untreated pain? Is the caregiver refusing to let you talk to the adult alone? Is the caregiver giving contradictory statements about the adult’s behavior or health? Are there other yellow or red flags that may be hints of abuse or neglect? Abuse, neglect or exploitation may be happening, but, from a legal perspective, you may hesitate taking the case because it does not seem ‘winnable.’ And you could be right.