As a community, we want to ensure that our elderly and vulnerable adults are protected. We depend on the community’s eyes and ears to keep our residents safe. In Buncombe County, 17.5 percent of residents are over the age of 65 and 12 percent of the population 18 and over have one or more types of disabilities, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
North Carolina’s Adult Protective Services law provides protection to all adults over the age of 18 who have a disability and who might be abused, neglected or exploited and who might be in the need of protective services.
We are all mandated reporters by law and it is our duty to report if we suspect the following:
Any caretaker that willfully inflicts physical pain, injury, mental anguish, unreasonable confinement or deprivation of services from an adult who is disabled which are needed to maintain the adult’s mental and physical health.
Any caretaker who withholds necessary care from an adult who is disabled.
The inability of an adult who is disabled to provide himself/herself needed services to maintain mental and physical health.
The use of an adult who is disabled resources for another person’s profit or advantage. This most commonly is a family member but can also be a stranger or scam artist.
In fiscal year 2014, 1,665 reports of abuse, neglect or exploitation of vulnerable and elder adults were made to Buncombe County Health and Human Services. 1,157 of those reports were screened in and evaluated by an Adult Protective Services Social Worker. According to the North Carolina Adult Protective Services Register, 87% of reports received in 2014 were regarding adults with disabilities living in their own homes, while about 13% of the reports were regarding individuals living in long term care facilities. Older adults are the majority of persons receiving Adult Protective Services (APS) in North Carolina; 71% of reports were regarding adults 60 years of age or older.
What can I do?
If you see what you think is abuse, neglect or exploitation of an adult who is disabled, call Buncombe County Health and Human Services and report your concerns. Our intake line is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and can be reached by calling (828) 250-5800.
This is a vulnerable population and you can help them if you SPEAK UP and report:
Sudden changes in behavior or finances
Physical injuries, dehydration, or malnourishment
Extreme withdrawal, depression or anxiety
Absence of basic health care or necessities
Kept away from others
Unsanitary living conditions
Personal items or resources missing
Again, North Carolina is a mandatory reporting state. The law underscores the important role that each member of the community plays in keeping our neighbors and community members safe. You might wonder, “Is this something that is serious enough to report?” or “What if I am wrong?” Remember that you are making a report in good faith and it is important to SPEAK UP for the elderly and adults with disabilities.