An overview of adult protective services role

Abuse, neglect, and exploitation involving at-risk adults is a growing problem in the United States and Colorado is no exception. To help deal with this problem, each county department of human services in the state provides Adult Protective Services (APS) to their community.

The main responsibility of APS is to provide protective services to stop or prevent the mistreatment or self-neglect of at-risk adults. APS works with a variety of agencies in the community to arrange services necessary for the health, safety, and welfare of at-risk adults.

In 2012, APS caseworkers responded to 11,000 reports of mistreatment and self-neglect of at-risk adults in Colorado. At-risk adults are adults age 18 or older who cannot provide for their own health, safety, or welfare, or obtain the services necessary to keep themselves safe and healthy. Some of the conditions that contribute to making an adult at-risk for mistreatment or self-neglect include dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, developmental disabilities, severe physical disabilities, or serious medical conditions.

There are a wide range of situations that may be considered mistreatment or self-neglect. Physical abuse, caretaker neglect, exploitation, and sexual abuse are all forms of mistreatment. Self-neglect occurs when an at-risk adult does not or cannot provide for their own health, safety, or welfare because they are unable to secure necessary services or resources. When APS responds to a report of mistreatment or self-neglect, the first step is to interview the at-risk adult and investigate the allegations. If the allegations are criminal in nature, APS works with local law enforcement and the District Attorney as part of their investigation. If the allegations are valid, and the at-risk adult accepts help, APS will set up protective services and find resources to help keep the at-risk adult safe. These services may include homemaker services, food delivery, medical services, home health care, and other support services. The goal of any APS service is to keep the at-risk adult safe while helping him or her remain as independent as possible.

If you suspect mistreatment or self-neglect, it’s okay to speak up. You should immediately report the situation to the Montezuma County Department of Social Services at 970-565-3769. Ask to speak to Adult Protection Intake. If you’re calling about an emergency situation during non-business hours, contact 970-565-8441 (law enforcement) to make the report.

All reports are confidential and can be made anonymously. However, it is helpful to APS if you provide your contact information so APS can contact you, if needed.

Warning signs of abuse, neglect, and exploitation —

S udden changes in behavior, finances, or lifestyle

P hysical injuries, dehydration, or malnourishment

E xtreme withdrawal, depression, or anxiety

A bsence of basic care or necessities

K ept away from others

U nsanitary living conditions

P ersonal items or money missing