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VPAS raising awareness of elder abuse

With reports of elder abuse on the rise in Virginia and across the nation, a call for community-wide vigilance and engagement is in order.

Shenandoah Valley Adult Protective Services and VPAS’ Local Long-Term Care Ombudsman urge residents of nursing homes and assisted living facilities, their families, advocates, and caregivers to continue to speak up when there are concerns about long-term care.  Anyone suspecting abuse or neglect should report it immediately, whether care is provided in a facility setting or at home.

Efforts to prevent abuse, neglect, and financial exploitation of elderly or incapacitated adults depend on strong communication among service providers, law enforcement, protective services, and the public.  However, information gaps occur – at times because of the need to balance a vulnerable adult’s possible need for protection over and against the constitutional right to autonomy and self-determination.  Those charged with investigating and offering protections must follow strict procedures for releasing information – procedures designed to safeguard individual privacy and dignity.  The carefully crafted laws upon which we all depend for the protection of individual liberty also create a challenging labyrinth that public servants who work with vulnerable adults must navigate.  The bottom line is, absent evidence of incapacity, all adults are by law presumed competent to make decisions and to accept or refuse protections and services.  This fundamental principle requires careful effort to assist those who may need help.  This is where law enforcement and protective services come in.  Together with the medical community and with responsible family members and friends, police and social workers seek to intercede appropriately to make a difference in the lives of isolated or vulnerable persons.

When abuse, neglect or exploitation of an elderly or incapacitated adult is suspected and Adult Protective Services is called, the name and location of the vulnerable adult MUST, as a practical matter, be provided.  However, those making reports may remain anonymous.

When questions arise about quality of care and life in nursing homes, in assisted living facilities, or in the home, the Local Long-Term Care Ombudsman can help assert the right to quality care, discuss ways to obtain good care, and investigate complaints from those receiving care.

The Local Long-Term Care Ombudsman can be reached by calling (866) 816-9020 or any VPAS/Area Agency on Aging office.  Complaints about nursing homes can also be made to the Office of Licensure and Certification:  (800) 955 1819.  The Division of Licensing works on concerns about assisted living facilities:  (540) 332-2330.

Reports of suspected abuse, neglect and exploitation of elderly or incapacitated adults should be directed to the Shenandoah Valley Department of Social Services Adult Services Intake at 540-942-6648 or the Virginia Elder Abuse Hotline, 1 (888) 83ADULT/(888) 832-3858.

Augusta Health Augusta Free Press Kris McMackin CPA
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