In the United States, Adult Protective Services (APS) is an organization that works towards ensuring the welfare of the elderly and preventing exploitation. Specifically, APS provides services to abused, neglected, and/or exploited older adults. APS also assists vulnerable adults such as those with disabilities due to aging, health related issues, or dementia. APS is typically administered by local or state regulatory departments which provide a wide range of services including investigation into mistreatment and legal intervention on behalf of the victim.
In Ohio, APS law applies only to those people who are 60 and older. However, in many states APS provides adult protective services to anyone over the age of 18.
Abuse is widely defined under the APS and can include physical, emotional, verbal, and sexual abuse. Likewise, the definition of exploitation is broad and includes financial explotation. Regarding neglect, the neglect can be at the hands of a caregiver who has accepted responsibility for caring for the older or disabled adult. Additionally, many states include self-neglect in their definition of those needing adult protective services. Self-neglect involves an individual’s inability to care for themselves due to physical or cognitive deficits.
In California, the APS is a 24-hour service program designed to investigate all reported at-risk situations without regard to income involving the elderly who are 65 or older and dependent adults (18-64 who are physically or mentally impaired). Exploitation includes physical, sexual or financial abuse, isolation, neglect, or self-neglect and referrals are received through the Elder Abuse Hotline or from other entities. On getting a report of exploitation, the APS social workers make face-to-face contact with the abused, neglected or exploited person to investigate and assess the situation. The social worker then makes an appropriate case plan to deal with the situation. For this purpose, the worker may seek the help of outside agencies such as the local senior center, law enforcement, the Alzheimer’s Association or the Department of Consumer Affairs, coordinating with Department of Mental Health, Public Guardian, law enforcement or the District Attorney.
At the national level, APS is administered by The National Adult Protective Services Association (NAPSA). The NAPSA is a national non-profit organization. It has members in all fifty states, as well as in the District of Columbia. The association was formed in 1989 to provide state APS program administrators and staff with a forum for sharing information and improving the quality of services for victims of elder abuse. The NAPSA’s main goal is to improve the quality and availability of services for disabled adults and elderly persons who are abused, neglected or exploited and are unable to protect their own interests.
NAPSA conducts annual national training events. The organization also publishes a newsletter written for and by APS members that highlights innovative practices and APS activities throughout the nation. NAPSA is actively involved in conducting ongoing national research activities on topics such as APS training, services to self-neglecting adults and national APS data collection.
NAPSA is a partner in the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA). NAPSA is the only national organization representing the interests of APS programs, staff and the victims. The work of NAPSA is supported by grants, membership dues, conference registration fees, consulting fees and donations to the National Adult Protective Services Foundation.
Membership in NAPSA is open to current and former APS agencies, organizations, administrators, directors, supervisors, program specialists, trainers, caseworkers and case aides. Membership is also available to any person with an interest in APS programs or issues, or who works with elderly and vulnerable adults.
The basic goals set by the NAPSA are:
- Provide assistance to state and local administrators in securing technical assistance and developing resources;
- Support the development of national, state and local policies, programs and services designed to benefit abused, neglected, or exploited adults;
- Educate the public and legislative bodies concerning the needs of abused, neglected or exploited adults who require protective services; and
- Build and manage the growth of the NAPSA infrastructure to support the mission, goals, and objectives of NAPSA.