How to reduce the risk of abuse in adults

Every adult has the right to live in safety, free from abuse and neglect. In the case of vulnerable adults, it’s everyone’s collective responsibility to help ensure they’re protected from harm. This includes taking action to reduce the risk of them being targeted by perpetrators of abuse.

Adults of any age could be targeted by criminals who wish to abuse or exploit them. Adult abuse can take many forms, including: physical abuse, sexual abuse, psychological abuse, modern slavery, financial or material abuse, neglect and acts of omission, self-neglect, domestic violence, discriminatory abuse and organisational abuse.

Abuse in adulthood tends to have less adverse effects than child abuse, but the impact on an adult’s physical and mental health and well-being can still be devastating. This is why it can be helpful to be aware of the ways we could prevent abuse in adults, particularly vulnerable adults who may not be able to do so themselves.

How to prevent abuse in vulnerable adults

Anyone can be the victim of abuse, but adults who have care and support needs and/or are unable to protect themselves from harm or exploitation are particularly at risk.

The best way to help play your part in combatting adult abuse is to learn as much as you can about the topic. Learn about the different types of abuse, how to identify that someone is being abused, how to stay safe yourself and what to do to raise a concern. These tips below can also help you learn how to prevent abuse in vulnerable adults:

  • Keep an eye out for family, friends, and neighbours who may be vulnerable
  • Understand that abuse can happen to anyone although some people may be very good at hiding signs of abuse
  • If a person’s isolation is an issue, discuss with them ways you might be able to help limit it
  • Try to speak to the person about what you suspect is happening to them
  • Speak up and report any suspicions you have of abuse
  • Spread the word about the importance of looking out for adult abuse to raise awareness and understanding

What does the term ‘safeguarding adults’ mean?

As you look into adult abuse, you may come across the term “safeguarding adults”. Safeguarding adults is a legal framework set out in the Care Act 2014 for providers of health and social care services as well as for local authorities. Some of its aims are:

  • To prevent harm and reduce the risk of abuse or neglect in adults with care and support needs
  • To safeguard individuals in a way that supports them in making choices and having control in how they choose to live their lives
  • To raise public awareness so that professionals and communities play their part in preventing, identifying and responding to abuse and neglect

Safeguarding adults who need help is the responsibility of everyone, not just health and social care staff. Whether you’re a relative, friend, member of the general public or even the person experiencing the abuse, you can raise a safeguarding concern. Read more about what to do if you suspect abuse in vulnerable adults.

How to reduce the risk of abuse as a vulnerable adult

If you are a vulnerable adult, there are some things that you can do to keep yourself safe:

  • Cultivate a strong support network of family and friends who show genuine concern for your wellbeing.
  • Try not to become isolated from others or abandon your favourite activities.
  • Try not to allow anyone else to isolate you from others. For example, by not allowing you to talk to others unless they’re there with you, or insisting they accompany you when you visit doctors or friends.
  • Maintain regular medical and dental appointments and take good care of yourself so you can continue to have an engaging life.
  • If you’re living with someone else, make sure you have your own phone and can send and open your own mail.
  • If an adult relative wants to live with you, think it over carefully, especially if they have a history of violent behaviour or addiction problems.
  • Assert your right to be treated with dignity and respect.
  • Know your legal rights.
  • Trust your instincts and ask for help if you need it.
  • If you need help, ask a trusted friend, family member or doctor. Ask around if you’re unhappy with their response, and don’t let it hold you back from seeking official help or going to the police.

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