HomeLawRecognising and helping vulnerable adults

Recognising and helping vulnerable adults


When we hear the term vulnerable adult in any context, we tend to picture them as individuals that totally require support or are quite old age wise. However, the term is more widespread in context than just those two descriptions. This includes those individuals that seek assistance for day-to-day activities as well because they are at a risk of any kind of exploitation or abuse.

In this blog we try to determine how wide spread discrimination can be and how to look for signs of exploitation and abuse in such individuals. The faster they are recognised as being vulnerable, the quicker they can be protected from unscrupulous people.

How will we define a vulnerable adult?

Any individual that is more than 18 years old and incapable of caring for themself due to mental, functional or physical disabilities can be termed as a vulnerable adult. While some may just have one issue others may have more. Consequently, they are unable to defend themselves from any kind of abuse or exploitation they may receive from anyone.

It is seen that such individuals that live in public accommodation like hospices and care shelters are at risk of exploitation and abuse at the hands of others. Therefore, it is vital for the authorities of these institutions to only select employees for roles where they come in contact with such groups, after they have undergone an enhanced DBS check along with the barred list before they actually begin work in their new role.

Spotting exploitation and abuse in vulnerable adults

Being able to locate any kind of exploitation or abuse in these kinds of groups is not always cut and dry. Some that undergo any form of abuse might display change in behavioural traits like being more defensive or stressed than earlier. They might begin to show distrust more commonly and their dikes and dislikes may change. While they may have been more communicative and outgoing earlier and open to receiving assistance, they might become more withdrawn and introverted all of a sudden. Any kind of behavioural change that comes about suddenly in these individuals could be a sign of being abused.

While emotional signs of abuse are more difficult to identify, the physical signs are far easier to identify if they are not hidden. However, one must be aware of the difference between day-today natural bruises and injuries that can happen versus any kind of signs of physical abuse like bruising on the private parts and finger marks left behind. Apart from sexual abuse that can happen to a vulnerable adult without their consent, psychological and financial abuse are also factors that need to be aware of.

Therefore, it is critical to only have an employee take up a new job in a position of regulated activity after they have received their DBS certificate upon clearing Enhanced DBS checks that will lower the risk of vulnerable adults undergoing any form of abuse.

Ways to prevent abuse in vulnerable adults

The first thing is not to assume that any kind of abuse will not take place, as any individual may seem well enough to take care of themselves. Getting acquainted with the various types of abuse and their signs is one of the most effective ways to ensure that such individuals are protected from this kind of occurrence.

When a family member moves to any of these kinds of institutions, confirm that an enhanced DBS check is done on those that will betaking care of them to lower the risk of abuse. Most sexual predators look for individuals that not very active socially with other members at the facility and tend to be more isolated with very less interaction with others. If you know anyone to be vulnerable motivate them to be more socially active, engaged and aware of their surroundings.

Always trust your gut, if you feel something is amiss and if necessary, bring up the subject with the relevant authorities like the care provider or the hospice manager.

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