State sees spike in reports for abuse, neglect and exploitation of vulnerable adults

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BISMARCK, N.D. - The Department of Human Services says it received more than 2,200 reports of suspected abuse, neglect or exploitation of vulnerable adults last year, an 18 percent increase from the year before. The Vulnerable Adult Protective services program addresses the safety of vulnerable adults who are at risk. A vulnerable adult is someone who has a substantial mental or functional impairment that would inhibit their ability to live independently.

The state's been tracking reports of suspected abuse, neglect, or exploitation for years, but has seen a spike in reports since it became mandatory to report in 2013.

"In partnership with the abused adult resource center to talk about abuse in later life, we presented trainings to law enforcement and victim services providers statewide," said Michelle Gayette, assistant director of the Aging Services Division.

The associate state director of AARP says reporting neglect, abuse and exploitation is important, and elder abuse is a serious issue.

"A lot of the exploitation and a lot of the elder abuse comes from people they know," said Mike Chaussee, associate state director of AARP.

The department of human services has a wide demographic, accepting reports for anyone above the age of 18 statewide.

"Generally about half of the reports we receive in require at least one home visit, and we go out and offer services to older adults," said Gayette.

Gayette says it's important to report abuse or exploitation when you notice it, but the state recently focused on training individuals to recognize it in those ages 50 and over.

"Part of what we're trying to do is keep people in their homes longer, and keep them safe there, but also bring services in so we can help them maintain a quality of life that they want," said Gayette.

And the state's goal is to expand home and community based services, coming up this year. Gayette says since it got more funding this past legislative session, it's able to provide more services in people's homes.

To report a concern, you can call 855-462-5465, option 2.