Adult Protective Services (APS)

Also known as: Elder Abuse Prevention

Last Updated: January 2, 2022

Written by the Open Caregiving Team. Editorial review by Joyce O. Murphy RN, MSN.

What are adult protective services?

Adult protective services ensure that aging people are safe from harm. This means they are protected from:

  • Physical or emotional abuse.
  • Those who take advantage of their finances.
  • Potentially being a danger to themselves or others, often because of dementia.

What do adult protective services do?

APS works with other community professionals on behalf of the well-being of aging adults. APS staff:

  • Investigate reports of potential neglect, abuse, or being exploited.
  • Review reports and visit with the person who may be being harmed.
  • Assess the person’s safety and develop a plan of care if they’re a victim or at risk for becoming one.
  • Help the person get counseling when that will be helpful.
  • Support the person in getting beneficial services, such as transportation or help with nutrition.

When to call adult protective services?

There are several reasons for calling APS when you are concerned for an aging person’s safety and well-being. These are:

  • You’re concerned about your loved one’s decisions and safety, including:
    • They have unpaid bills yet give money to friends.
    • They often get lost while out driving or walking.
    • Saying that their bruises are because of falls even though you know they’re afraid of their spouse or companion.
    • You’ve noticed a number of safety concerns in your loved one’s home.
  • You’re concerned for your loved one’s health because:
    • There’s evidence they’re not taking their medications as prescribed.
    • You find them in bed at all hours of the day.
    • They can’t remember what month it is and sometimes forget your name.
    • You’ve had to take them to the emergency room a few times the last couple of months.
  • You’re worried that someone is taking advantage of your loved one because:
    • Money is missing and they can’t recall where it went.
    • Someone you don’t know is visiting and your loved one acts strangely after their visit.
    • Treasured possessions have disappeared from their home.

Any of the above concerns can happen at home or:

  • In a facility where your loved one is a resident.
  • When your loved one is out in the community, including during transportation to appointments.

What happens when you call adult protective services?

Each state has its own regulations related to APS. These generally state that:

  • A report is reviewed by an adult protective case evaluator to determine if there is potential abuse, neglect, or exploitation happening.
  • If the case meets the criteria for evaluation, an APS caseworker makes a visit to the potential victim.
  • The APS worker determines if there is harm and discusses options.
    • A person has the right to decline care or additional services.
    • They offer your loved one various service options that will help their situation.
    • The worker follows up with your loved one according to guidelines for doing so.

What is the local adult protective services number?

APS phone numbers are often listed in phone books. Or you can call:

Who is required to report elder abuse or neglect?

Laws and regulations related to reporting of elder abuse, neglect, or exploitation vary from state to state. Mandated reporters are professionals who are required to report the potential of any of these concerns. They include:

  • Healthcare professionals, including doctors, dentists, nurses, social workers, and others who care for your loved one. They may work at hospitals, urgent care clinics, and medical and dental practices, among others.
  • Law enforcement and emergency personnel.
  • Clergy, social service providers and mental health counselors.
  • Financial services providers.

What is the difference between Adult Protective Services and an Ombudsman Program?

APS and the Ombudsman Program are both concerned with elder care and safety. Each has its own focus which creates differences between the two programs.

  • Adult Protective Services:
    • Is fully staffed by professionals, often from a social services or rehabilitation background.
    • Includes advocacy, case management, and can include reporting those who harm or threaten an aging person to law enforcement.
    • Is expected to meet professional standards and state regulations.
  • The Ombudsman Program:
    • Helps when you have concerns about the care your loved one is receiving in a long-term care facility.
    • Is staffed by a statewide coordinator and network of trained volunteers.
    • Assures that a long-term care ombudsman works with your loved one, you, and the facility to ensure that care and safety meet expectations.
  • NOTE: In some situations, caregivers who work for a facility will make a report to APS if a concern is not addressed by responsible managers.

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