2.5 Signs of Abuse

Being mindful of the various forms of abuse and knowing how to identify them is the responsibility of all healthcare professionals, along with any other persons who might come in contact with vulnerable adults.

Signs of abuse can be obvious or nonobvious.

  • Obvious Signs – They are signs that can be observed physically. For example, a vulnerable adult might seem malnourished, dirty, hungry, or have bruises on their body.
  • Nonobvious SignsThey are signs that cannot be observed without studying patterns of behavior. For example, a vulnerable adult could be hesitant to talk and appear fearful, distressed, and distrusting.

Vulnerable adults can also disclose the abuse they are suffering if they feel safe and hope to get help. In some cases, they might be getting abused but wouldn’t realize the severity of the situation, for instance, if they are not getting their appropriate medication or treatment.

Similarly, in other cases, a vulnerable adult’s family member might behave suspiciously, which could mean that the adult they are caring for or are responsible for is neglected or abused.

In instances where an employee does not see obvious evidence of abuse but has a suspicion, they must have adequate training on safeguarding to make a judgment call and at least investigate the situation as best as they can. This can include alerting authorities or getting their superiors involved.

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