What should I do if I suspect abuse, neglect, or exploitation of a vulnerable adult West Virginian?

Adult Protective Services (APS), a division of the WV Department of Health and Human Resources (WVDHHR), provides investigation, assessment, and time-limited case management services intended to protect incapacitated adults from abuse and neglect. Anyone who has reason to suspect abuse, neglect, or financial exploitation of an incapacitated adult can make a report to APS by calling the abuse hotline at 1-800-352-6513. 

Abuse, neglect, and financial exploitation are all crimes. You can report these crimes to local or state law enforcement for investigation.  

For more information, see: W. Va. Code §44A-3-11 (2015)

What should I do if I am being abused, neglected, or financially exploited?

If you are a victim of abuse, neglect, or financial exploitation, care for your own safety first. You may get help by calling the WV Elder Abuse Hotline at 1-800-352-6513. If you suspect you have been financially exploited call your financial institution immediately, contact local or state law enforcement to report the crime. If you are a resident of a long term care facility you can contact the WV Long-term Care Ombudsman Program at 1-800-834-0598. For civil legal assistance West Virginians age 60 and over may contact West Virginia Senior Legal Aid at 1-800-229-5068

What are signs of financial exploitation?

Financial exploitation is often perpetrated by people in positions of trust. This can include the senior’s own children, grandchildren, friends, caregivers, neighbors, and church members. Because the perpetrator is someone close to the victim it may be hard for the senior to admit even to himself or herself that he/she has been victimized. It can also make it difficult for him or her to ask for help to stop the exploitation, since the perpetrator may be someone the seniors loves or who is providing vital assistance in other ways to the senior.  

Some warning signs that others might notice indicating you may be a victim of financial exploitation include: 

•financial activity inconsistent with your abilities or financial history 
•a lot of new account withdrawals, usually in round numbers ($50, $100, etc.) 
•increased activity on your credit cards 
•withdrawals from your accounts in spite of financial penalties 
•changes in account beneficiaries or newly authorized signers on accounts 
•you are confused about recent financial arrangements 
•changes in property titles, deeds, or refinanced mortgages 
•recent changes in power of attorney documents, wills, or trusts 
•you have recently become more reluctant to discuss financial matters 
•you have been isolated from contact with family members, friends, and/or society 
•your mail, phone calls, visitors, and/or outings have been taken over by the potential exploiter 
•you have been falsely worried that you will lose your house and be placed in a nursing home 
•you have been told that no one but the potential exploiter cares about you 
•your food or medication has been manipulated or withheld so you become weak or compliant 
•you have been threatened with harm, neglect, or abandonment if you don’t agree to do as you are told 
•your caregiver or beneficiary refuses to use your funds for your necessary care and treatment

What are the signs of physical abuse and neglect?

Elder abuse, neglect, or exploitation can happen to any senior. There are victims among all communities, income levels, races, and religions. Every senior has a right to live free from abuse, neglect, and exploitation. There is no excuse for harming a senior. Elder abuse is a crime, though often a hidden one.

Abuse can take many forms, including but not limited to: 

•infliction of injury 
•mental abuse 
•depriving senior of food 
•depriving senior of needed assistive devices like walkers or wheelchairs 
•sexual assault 
•depriving senior of medical care 

A senior who has bruises or substantial weight loss without reasonable explanation, inadequate medical care or missing medicine, or substantial change in personality may be a victim of abuse or neglect.  

For more information, see: W. Va. Code §16-5S-11 (2015).