At our Brown Bag Luncheon on February 21st, we welcomed Katie Woods, Family Law Attorney, as our speaker. We learned that her topic, Elder Abuse, really is a discussion of "Vulnerable Adult Abuse." By definition, in the State of Utah Statute, anyone over the age of 65 or anyone over the age of 18, who has a disability, is presumed to be a "vulnerable adult." Abuse in its various forms can be the outcome of our own unfortunate circumstances or be perpetrated by others, including "trusted" family members or appointed custodians. The definition of abuse is: attempting to cause harm or intentionally and knowingly causing harm. Forms of abuse may be physical, emotional, sexual or the most common form, financial. Abuse of the vulnerable adult may also be manifested in neglect or abandonment and even healthcare fraud.
Katie reminded us that abuse occurs not only at the hands of those fostering their own self-interests but also by us, ourselves, when we fail to acknowledge that we may not always be able to care for our own needs and to plan for that eventuality. We may not, personally, realize we are "losing it" until it has happened and then must depend on others to recognize the signs and take appropriate action. Among telltale signs of self-neglect are: social isolation, over/under medication, malnourishment/dehydration, unkempt appearance, lack of usual assistive devices such as glasses, dentures, hearing aids, and failure to keep medical or social appointments. Abuse can occur in nursing homes and it behooves each of us to be aware should we find ourselves needing to choose or perhaps just visit a facility responsible for the care of a vulnerable adult. You may report suspicion of abuse, in confidence, to Debbie Booth at Adult Protective Services (800) 371-7897.
To become more informed about the subject of Vulnerable Adult Abuse, Neglect or Exploitation, consult the definitions section of the Utah Human Services Code at: Utah Code on Abuse, neglect or exploitation of a vulnerable adult