If someone you know who is a senior or an adult with a disability is being abused, neglected, or financially exploited, here’s how to help:
- Approach the person at a time and place that is safe and confidential.
- Start by expressing concern, such as, I am worried about your safety, I am concerned someone is hurting you, I am concerned someone is taking advantage of you.
- Take the time to listen and believe what they say.
- Tell them good things about themselves. Let them know you think they are smart, strong, and brave. Their abuser may be tearing down their self-esteem.
- Call and visit as often as you can, isolation is a major risk factor of abuse.
- Be patient. Self-empowerment may take longer than you want. Go at their pace, not yours. They also may be abused by someone they know, love, and trust, such as an adult child, a spouse, or a caregiver.
- Communicate that you care about their safety, that they do not deserve to be hurt, and that the abuse is not their fault.
- Consider calling CFPA to learn more about the kinds of help available, to ask questions specific to the situation, and to learn how you can be an effective and supportive ally.
- Consider making a report if you suspect abuse. Often times, the individual may not recognize they are being abused, but you can make a report 24/7 by calling the Adult Protective Services hotline at CFPA at 309-637-3905 or 1-800-559-SAFE.
- If they live in a long-term care facility such as a nursing home, assisted or supportive living, a developmentally disabled home, etc., consider calling CFPA’s Long Term Care Ombudsman program at 309-272-2917.
- Do not accuse, diagnose, or judge their choices; do not draw conclusions about what they may be experiencing or feeling; and do not judge or criticize their abuser.
- Do not pressure them to severe ties with the person who is abusing them, such as their child or their caregiver. There are many reasons they may choose to continue that relationship. It is possible their abuser has threatened to hurt them or their children if they try to leave. The abuser may control all of their finances and may have isolated the victim from friends and family, leaving them with very few resources of their own. The abuser may be related to the victim or employed by the victim. It is never as simple as encouraging a victim to “just leave” but by all means, communicate to them that help does exist, and that people in their community care about them and their children and want them to be safe.
- Do not feel the need to be an expert. Do not try to provide counseling or advice, but do connect them to trained people who can help. CFPA staff are available 24/7 to take a call.
Seniors and adults with disabilities may be victims of abuse in their own home or in their long-term care facility. CFPA’s Adult Protective Services can assist in investigating abuse in the home and can be reached at 309-637-3905 and CFPA’s Long Term Care Ombudsman program can assist in investigating abuse in a long-term care facility and can be reached at 309-272-2917.
All victim services are free and confidential.