Be a spring holiday hero: report harm
Some things are hard to miss. Some things you won’t notice at all unless you’re looking for them. Child abuse, for example, awakes a visceral, primal desire to take action to protect our vulnerable young. On the other hand, as a society, we’re less attuned to harm inflicted against vulnerable adults. We need to be more vigilant.
The spring season has special meaning to us at the Delaware Division of Services for Aging and Adults with Physical Disabilities. It’s a time when many of us gather with family and friends for Easter, Passover and Eid al-Fitr. It’s also when many Delawareans return home or visit aging loved ones, which brings about the opportunity to check on their well-being. We often see this as a time when potential abuse, neglect or exploitation is uncovered, which for the vulnerable adults in our state, means a connection to help.
To respond in times like this, our Adult Protective Services unit made reporting observed or suspected harms confidential and convenient with the new 24-hour, easy-to-remember hotline: 888-APS-4302. You can also learn more at de.gov/MakeTheCall.
Perhaps most of us will take notice of and take action against the most recognizable and egregious forms of harm, such as physical and sexual abuse. But the less obvious are the subtle, insidious forms of mistreatment to which, as a community, we need to pay closer attention.
Financial exploitation is most prevalent against seniors and other at-risk adults. Exploitation of this kind makes up nearly 60% of all abuse. It’s when a predator illegally takes, misuses or conceals funds, property or assets from an older adult and those with disabilities.
Other less evident types of harm that we should all watch for include emotional abuse, neglect, abandonment, intimidation, manipulation or coercion. Even individuals concerned they can no longer care for themselves can call us to step in and facilitate support.
While our services are entirely voluntary and must be accepted by the victim, reporting makes a difference. In 2021, anonymous reports helped protect 2,184 vulnerable adults from potential harm. And while that number is heartening, it’s estimated that a vast majority of neglect, abuse and exploitation goes unreported – or undetected. For example, for one reported instance of potential financial exploitation, 44 vulnerable adults continue to fall victim to abuse without anyone reporting it.
The Division’s APS unit is not a law enforcement agency, but our professionals can intervene and initiate investigations. We can also share information with inter-agency partners and local law enforcement. It’s important to note that reporting abuse you suspect is not the same as accusing someone of it; it simply notifies professionals who can bring APS resources and services to bear if needed.
The bottom line is this: you have the power to make a difference for a vulnerable adult who is being harmed by reporting to APS. Be their spring holiday hero.