News

Staying Connected while Maintaining Distance: Help Protect Vulnerable Adults this Holiday Season

December 4, 2020

The holiday season is usually filled with family gatherings, visits to friends, communal meals and group activities. These events provide us with opportunities to check-in on our loved ones and take note of their well-being. While the festivities may look different this year, it’s more important than ever to reach out to our loved ones and stay connected.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has increased isolation of vulnerable adults and has made our work increasingly more difficult,” said APS Director, Kathy Morgan. “Vulnerable adult mistreatment is not as visible as it once was. We rely on doctors, bank tellers, religious leaders, community members and families to report signs of abuse and neglect. With social distancing measures in place, it’s increasingly more difficult for our partners to see and identify possible mistreatment.”

Vulnerable adult mistreatments manifest in many ways, including neglect, self-neglect and financial exploitation as well as physical, sexual and mental abuse. Signs of mistreatment can include lack of adequate food, suspicious financial withdraws, sudden changes in behavior and changes in social engagement.

“Even with social restrictions in place, it’s crucial that we check-in on our neighbors and loved ones to help keep them safe,” said Morgan. “We truly rely on the public to be our eyes and ears when it comes to spotting potential abuse, neglect or exploitation. We often get an influx of reports after the holidays when families visit loved ones and notice something isn’t quite right. While the visits may look different, we encourage everyone to take this opportunity to reach out and maintain connections.”

Maintaining social interactions while keeping physical distance is critical to protecting vulnerable adults during these unusual times. Phone calls, letters, video calls and quick backyard chats are a great way to stay connected and check for any concerning behavior changes or physical indicators.

“Understanding the signs is the first step,” said Morgan. “Many cases go unreported simply because no one realized what was going on. If you’re unsure, please make a report to APS. We take every report seriously and are dedicated to working with individuals to offer services while honoring their personal choices.”

Suspected cases of abuse, neglect, self-neglect, financial exploitation and abandonment should be reported to APS by filing a report online at www.dshs.wa.gov/altsa/reportadultabuse or by calling 1-866-END-HARM.

Easy ways to proactively engage with vulnerable adults include safely dropping off a prepared meal, keeping open lines of communication with loved ones, offering respite breaks for caregivers and learning about the warning signs to help educate others. To learn more about APS and vulnerable adult mistreatments, visit the APS website at www.dshs.wa.gov/altsa/aps.