How to Identify and Assist a Vulnerable Adult

When thinking about what a vulnerable adult would look like, many may think of those in their old age or those purely relying on the support of others. The reality is that the scope of ‘vulnerable adults’ spans much broader. Individuals who trust others to assist them with day-to-day activities, such as washing and dressing, are at risk of becoming abuse victims.

The following information will explore just how wide this act of discrimination spans and how we can recognise the signs of abuse and exploitation. The quicker an adult can be identified as vulnerable, the faster they can be protected from such hurtful acts.

Definition of a Vulnerable Adult

A vulnerable adult is typically defined as an individual over the age of 18 who is not able to care for themselves due to physical, mental or functional inabilities. Some may only suffer from one, some from a few. This can also include those who cannot protect themselves from any harm or abuse they may be subjected to.

Individuals residing in sheltered accommodations, such as care homes, are good examples of people who may be subject to abuse and exploitation. It's essential for any establishments housing or caring for vulnerable adults to have had an Enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service Check or DBS Check undertaken for each staff member before their role's commencement.

How to Spot Abuse in Vulnerable Adults

Spotting abuse in vulnerable adults is not always based on what you can see. Many abused adults will exhibit traits in their behaviour, such as being tense or more on guard than usual. Changes in likes and dislikes and a lack of trust are common. Those who previously may have been more than happy to allow help may now be more reluctant. Be alert for any behaviour that seems abnormal for the individual.

Physical signs of abuse are typically thought to be easier to spot; however, these are difficult to see if they are hidden. Ensure you are educated on the difference between natural, day-to-day injuries such as a small paper cut and light bruise to the knee or elbow and deliberate harm results, such as finger marks and bruising in unlikely places. Other types of abuse include sexual abuse, when an individual takes advantage of a vulnerable adult, committing sexual acts that they have not consented to, financial abuse and psychological abuse.

Having new employees obtain a DBS Certificate due to passing an official DBS Check is an extra precaution an employer will take to help eradicate abuse of vulnerable adults.

How to Prevent Abuse in Vulnerable Adults

Never assume abuse can’t happen just because you believe an individual may be strong enough to look after themselves. Educating yourself on the signs of abuse to look out for is the first step to ensuring the safety of those around you.

If a loved one is moving into new accommodation, ensure that an Enhanced DBS Check has been carried out on anybody who will be caring for them to limit the opportunity for abuse. Abusers looking for victims will target those socially isolated and less active than those regularly surrounded by lots of people, so encourage anybody you believe to be a vulnerable adult to remain active and engaged with their surroundings.

Lastly, trust your gut. If you feel like something may be wrong, bring it up with the relevant people, whether a care home manager or a live-in care provider.

DBS Check for Care and Support Workers

Pending cases are allegations that don’t end up on your criminal record until there is a criminal conviction following a guilty verdict.

This means that pending matters wouldn’t appear on a DBS check application at a Basic or Standard level.

Enhanced disclosure applications, conversely, would delve deeper into an applicant’s criminal history, and this type of information could potentially be on the Police National Computer.

A pending matter could be disclosed during Stage 4 of the DBS application process if deemed necessary for your application.

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