When we think of vulnerable adults, we often imagine individuals who are elderly or in need of significant support. However, the term encompasses a broader range of individuals who require assistance in their daily activities and are at risk of exploitation or abuse.
Though this blog, we attempt to delve into the prevalence of discrimination and explore how to identify signs of exploitation and abuse in vulnerable adults. By recognizing their vulnerability early on, we can take swift action to protect them from unscrupulous individuals.
Who is a vulnerable adult?
A vulnerable adult is defined as an individual aged 18 or older who lacks the ability to care for themselves due to physical, functional or mental disabilities. Their vulnerabilities may stem from various factors, rendering them unable to defend against abuse or exploitation. Public accommodation settings, such as hospices and care shelters, pose a particular risk for these individuals. Therefore, it is crucial for the authorities of such institutions to ensure that employees who interact with vulnerable adults undergo enhanced DBS checks, including checks against the barred list, prior to commencing their roles. This ensures the safety and well-being of these individuals in care environments.
Identifying Signs of Exploitation and Abuse in Vulnerable Adults
Identifying exploitation or abuse within vulnerable adult groups can be a complex task. Individuals who experience abuse may exhibit changes in their behavior, such as increased defensiveness or stress levels. They may become more distrustful and their likes and dislikes might undergo a sudden shift. Previously communicative and open to receiving assistance, they may become withdrawn and introverted. Sudden behavioral changes in these individuals could be indicative of abuse.
Generally, signs of emotional abuse are harder to detect, while physical signs are more visible unless deliberately concealed. However, it is important to differentiate between everyday bruises and injuries and signs of physical abuse, such as bruising in intimate areas or fingermark impressions. In addition to sexual abuse, vulnerable adults are also susceptible to psychological and financial abuse, which necessitates vigilance.
To minimize the risk of abuse towards vulnerable adults, it is crucial to require employees to undergo Enhanced DBS checks and obtain their DBS certificate before assuming a regulated activity position. This thorough vetting process significantly reduces the likelihood of vulnerable adults being subjected to any form of mistreatment.
Preventing Abuse in Vulnerable Adults
It is essential not to underestimate the potential for abuse, even if an individual appears capable of self-care. Familiarizing oneself with different types of abuse and their associated signs is an effective way to safeguard vulnerable adults from such incidents. By recognizing the signs and taking appropriate action, we can help protect and support those in need.
When a family member transitions to a care institution, it is essential to ensure that all individuals responsible for their well-being have undergone an enhanced DBS check, reducing the risk of potential abuse. Sexual predators often target socially isolated individuals with limited interaction, making it crucial to encourage such persons to engage in social activities and maintain a degree of awareness of their surroundings.
Trusting your instincts is vital. If something feels off or suspicious, it is important to address the matter with the appropriate authorities, such as the manager or care provider, to ensure the well-being and safety of vulnerable individuals.