Under Maryland law any health practitioner, police officer, or human service worker who has reason to believe that a vulnerable adult is in danger is required to report that fact to the local department of social services. Any concerned person may make such a report. Read the Law: MD Code Family Law § 14-302
The purpose of the law is to prevent or remedy neglect, self-neglect, abuse, or exploitation of vulnerable adults who are unable to protect their own interests and are at risk of immediate harm to their own person or to others. The following definitions are very important:
- Vulnerable Adult - a person aged 18 or over who lacks the physical or mental capacity to provide for her or his daily needs.
- Neglect - the willful deprivation of adequate food, clothing, medical treatment, or habilitative therapy, shelter, or supervision from a vulnerable adult.
- Self-Neglect - the inability of a vulnerable adult to provide for his/her physical or mental health and well-being.
- Abuse - the sustaining of any physical injury by a vulnerable adult as a result of cruel or inhumane treatment or as a result of a malicious act by any person,
- Exploitation - any action which involves the misuse of a vulnerable adult’s funds, property, or person. Read the Law: MD Code Family Law § 14-101
It is also a crime for anyone responsible for the supervision of a vulnerable adult to neglect or abuse the person. Any abuse or neglect that results in sexual abuse, serious harm, or death is classified as felony of abuse or neglect of a vulnerable adult in the first degree and is punishable by up to 10 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines. Any abuse or neglect not rising to first degree abuse or neglect of a vulnerable adult may still be prosecuted as misdemeanor of abuse or neglect of a vulnerable adult in the second degree. On conviction, misdemeanor of abuse or neglect of a vulnerable adult in the second degree is punishable by up to five years in prison and up to $5,000 in fines. Read the Law: MD Code Criminal Law §§ 3-604, 3-605
Anyone who is a victim of any of these types of treatment, or anyone thinks that someone else is, can contact the Adult Protective Services office at their local Department of Social Services, or can call the Maryland Department of Human Resources at 1-800-91-PREVENT (1-800-917-7383). You can find the address and phone number of your local Department of Social Services at the previous link, located on the state Department of Human resources web site.
What are some signs of abuse?
The items on this list are not proof of abuse, but could be clues that there is abuse, neglect, or exploitation. Any one, or many of the things on this list can occur for many reasons other than abuse or neglect.
- multiple injuries
- injuries that normally would not occur together
- bruises, welts or abrasions
- the use of physical restraints, such as tying
- burns that could come from cigarettes or immersion to water that is too hot
- a caregiver's refusal to allow visitors to see the person alone
- Lab findings indicating over-medication
- malnourishment without a cause related to illness
- failure to provide physical aids such as glasses, hearing aids, or false teeth
- bed sores
- lack of compliance with medical care instructions
- statements about a caretaker that indicate fear
- threats or insults by caretaker
- caretaker talks of person as a burden
- person is withdrawn; gives short answers to questions, averts gaze
- person is not given opportunity to talk to others alone
- caregiver leaves person alone for long periods of time
- caregiver ignores person; gives "silent treatment"
- person shows signs of infantile behavior, antisocial behavior
Financial Neglect or Exploitation:
- Someone has the person's mail sent to their own address
- person is confused about his or her income and resources
- possessions and quality of life seems substandard given the resources the person has
- frequent or large gifts to a caregiver
- frequent checks written to caregiver
- unusual activity in bank accounts
- personal belongings missing
- person signs as surety or co-signer on loans
- someone lives with the person and refuses to leave
- numerous unpaid bills despite adequate income
- other persons added to bank accounts