ATrain Education


Continuing Education for Health Professionals

IA: Abuse of Dependent Adults

Module 11

Prevention of Abuse

All health and human service professionals have a role in preventing abuse, but particularly those who provide care to dependent adults in facilities, agencies, and programs. Criminal background checks are an important first step in hiring new employees.

The general public also needs greater awareness of the prevalence of dependent adult abuse, how to recognize the signs of abuse, and what to do when they suspect abuse. Professionals can help increase public awareness of this hidden crime.

As noted earlier, employers must complete all legally mandated criminal and abuse background checks including checks of child abuse and sex offender registries when applicable [Iowa Code 235B.6(2)(c); 235B.6(2)(3); 135C.33].

Public Awareness

Anyone can help raise public awareness about dependent adult abuse. Resources include:

  • Work with local area agency on aging or the Department on Aging (IDA) public awareness campaign. Put up flyers or notices around your workplace, talk to friends and colleagues, or encourage local radio and TV stations to broadcast public service announcements.
  • Publicize the dependent adult abuse hotlines.
    • Abuse in the community—DHS: 800 362 2178
    • Abuse in facilities or programs—DIA: 877 686 0027
    • Medicaid fraud—DIA: 515 281 5717 or 515 281 7086
    • Information on elder abuse: LifeLong Links: 866 468 7887
  • Encourage people to volunteer in healthcare facilities, at domestic violence shelters, and as respite caretakers.
  • Invite a speaker with professional experience with dependent adults to speak to an organization to which you belong.
  • Encourage people to identify dependent or older adults in the community who may be at risk.

Ten Tips for Preventing Abuse

The following list suggests actions that are designed to prevent abuse and to help the family and caretaker develop effective coping mechanisms and support systems:

  1. Assess the person for signs of abuse/neglect. Early identification is essential to break a pattern of abuse or neglect.
  2. Assess the family at risk for abuse or neglect, and intervene as necessary before abuse occurs. Identifying high-risk families can stop abuse before it starts.
  3. Develop a trusting relationship with the dependent adult and their relatives. This promotes open discussion of difficulties.
  4. Offer guidance in caregiving. The caretaker may lack information on how to properly care for the person.
  5. Provide information about community resources and alternative living arrangements before an older person moves in with an adult child. Knowledge of options and services can help avoid situations that may lead to abuse.
  6. Encourage the caretaker to join a self-help group and/or to use respite services. Discussion groups provide education and support. They also help relieve frustration.
  7. Emphasize the importance of social involvement. Using multiple support sources lessens the caretaker’s responsibilities and increases the older adult’s sense of independence.
  8. Report suspected abuse accurately. Use direct quotes and give specific descriptions of physical findings. Sketches and photographs of injuries may be extremely helpful. Accurate and comprehensive documentation is essential for diagnosis and intervention by legal or social services.
  9. Consult a social worker about referring the person to community agencies or providing alternative living arrangements. This encourages her/him to choose formal support services that maximize independence and enhance well-being.
  10. Discuss the possibility of alternative living arrangements to prevent abuse or neglect. If appropriate, the dependent adult may need to relocate to live with relatives, friends, or in a boarding home, retirement community, or healthcare facility.
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