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How Can Adult Protective Services Help?

How Can Adult Protective Services Help?

Most of us have heard of Child Protective Services, which are state agencies that exist to protect children who are subject to harm, abuse, or neglect. However, fewer people have heard of Adult Protective Services, or APS. So how can Adult Protective Services help? Read on to find out how these agencies can provide assistance to vulnerable adults. 

What is Adult Protective Services?

While most adults are able to protect themselves from severe exploitation and keep themselves safe, there are many adults who are not able to do so. Whether it is because of disability, illness, or age-related mental decline, some adults are unable to prevent financial exploitation, abuse, and neglect and require assistance to keep them safe from harm. 

Each state’s APS agency operates differently, but in most cases APS is there to step in with services to protect the most vulnerable. 

When Can Adult Protective Services Help?

You might be wondering when it is appropriate to seek intervention from the APS agency in your state.

Adult Protective Services is there to investigate suspected abuse, neglect, or exploitation of adults, age 18 and older who are physically or mentally impaired, or otherwise unable to help themselves. 

APS is there to intervene when: 

  • There is physical abuse taking place at the hands of caregivers, in a hospital, nursing home, or other institutional setting. 
  • There is neglect, or failure of a caregiver or institutional setting to provide safe shelter, food, clothing, or medical attention to an adult in their care. 
  • An adult is being over- or under-medicated by the person or institution charged with their care. 
  • Someone is taking advantage financially of a senior or other vulnerable adult. 
  • An adult is being sexually abused. 
  • An adult is unable to take care of his or herself (e.g. eating, dressing, bathing, etc.) 
  • Someone is isolating an adult by preventing them from communicating with others. This can take place in an institutional setting or be perpetrated by a spouse or caregiver. 
  • A caregiver or institutional setting is causing mental or emotional suffering (verbal assaults, causing fear, etc.) 

These are some of the most common scenarios where APS intervention may be appropriate, but there may be other times when their help is required. 

There are also times when help from APS is not appropriate and it is important to remember that adults with physical, and even mental impairments can and must consent to receive services. Contrary to popular belief, adults at any level of impairment who are engaged in consensual romantic or sexual relationships are not necessarily subject to intervention. 

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How Can Adult Protective Services Help?

So, you’re wondering how can Adult Protective Services help and what power does APS have? 

First, it is important to note that APS is not a law enforcement agency, but they can connect with law enforcement agencies when there is criminal activity to be addressed. This would occur in the case of financial exploitation or physical or sexual abuse. 

The primary purpose of APS agencies is to connect vulnerable adults with the appropriate services. In addition to performing an investigation of alleged abuse, neglect, or harm, APS can: 

  • Help a vulnerable adult or senior to find an alternative living arrangement. 
  • Help a vulnerable adult or senior with financial management. 
  • Help a vulnerable adult or senior advocate or apply for social services like Medicaid, food stamps, emergency housing, or disability payments.
  • Help a vulnerable adult or senior obtain legal counsel. 
  • Place a vulnerable adult or senior under conservatorship or guardianship in cases where there is no one to care for them or make decisions on their behalf. 

How Do I Connect With The Adult Protective Services Agency Near Me?

The National Adult Protective Services Association has a great interactive map which can be used to find contact information for the APS agency in your state. Please note that some states have two separate phone numbers to report abuse, neglect or harm to younger adults vs. seniors. 

When you make a call to the APS agency in your state, you can usually make a report anonymously, but you must know the name and location of the alleged victim, and some details of the abuse or neglect taking place. 

Finally, it is important to note that we each have a responsibility to report suspected abuse or neglect of vulnerable adults. In fact, in some states it is required by law that anyone who suspects that an adult is being harmed or neglected to report it to APS. 
More information about Adult Protective Services can be found on the National Adult Protective Services Association website.

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Catherine Hall, LMSW is a therapist at a small group practice in New York City. She earned her master of social work degree at New York University.


Thursday 4th of August 2022

IF you are the adult being discussed, KNOW YOUR RIGHTS! You do not have to allow anyone in your home. You have the right to legal representation. You do NOT have to consent to an exam. You do NOT have to tell anyone about medications you take, anything about your home, nor do you have to allow anyone inside, and that includes family members. A POLICEMAN told me this. Don't be bullied by family members or social workers. NEVER sign any agreement to go to a nursing home, even for a visit. A nursing facility can put a lien on your HOME and sell it and all your possessions, leaving you homeless and no way to get out of the nursing home. It happens every single day. I have seen it happen to my parents' friends. A nursing home is not free, even if they take you unwillingly and even if you have insurance and/or medicare. The balance is DUE when you are released, if you are released, but usually they will give you 30 days. My grandmother's nursing home, after medicare, cost $1000 a week. And that, friends, is how you lose are your assets, become homeless, and are stuck in a nursing home for the rest of your life. INSTEAD: hire a housekeeper!!! Go to the salon, get your hair and nails done. Get fresh food in the house via instacart or Amazon Fresh. Show that you are strong and capable of taking care of yourself. Believe me, those things cost less than your share of one week in a nursing home.


Sunday 10th of July 2022

I asked APS to intervene with my dad's " caretaker" twice by reporting financial exploitation and I was told he was not "vulnerable" enough. His caretaker then conned him into signing over his house to her after she had emptied everything worth money into her storage unit, she put him into a nursing home then proceeded to sell the house and then she took off with $590,000 that the house sold for giving nothing to him or his heirs. He has nothing left but his social security to pay his expenses which won't go far. APS failed my father miserably. My sibling filed a report too so they had 3 reports but did nothing. So don't count on them for help.


Friday 5th of August 2022

@A.Barcelou, I'm sorry you went through this. I had this happen to a neighbor of mine. A policeman gave me some great advice regarding APS which is to refuse any contact with them, but you do what works for you. This person needs to be sued for FRAUD not elder abuse, try that route instead. You'll get further. Try the Attorney General's office. Take photocopies of everything you have. If you do a statement anywhere, including APS, always do it in writing and keep a copy. In my state, all of that is in triplicate and they give you a copy. Take copies with you wherever you go to ask for help, it helps cut down on the red tape. I sure wish you well.

Beverly Ann Vansuch

Monday 10th of January 2022

Do they help with rent?


Monday 17th of January 2022

Information on this should be in the article above. Chat with Lira, she might be able to help!