Reporting of the maltreatment of vulnerable adults is down during pandemic
April 7, 2021
Allegations of maltreatment happening to vulnerable adults in Minnesota trended downward in 2020. State and local experts who track this data believe the COVID-19 pandemic is causing the drop in reports.
In Minnesota, the maltreatment of vulnerable adults is reported through the Minnesota Adult Abuse Reporting Center (MAARC), operated by the Department of Human Services (DHS). MAARC data shows that reports of suspected maltreatment dropped in the first 10 months of 2020 when compared to 2019. About 50,000 vulnerable adult maltreatment reports were made in 2020. Earlier this year DHS released data that showed a similar decline in child maltreatment complaints during the same period.
“Reports of vulnerable adults experiencing abuse, neglect or financial exploitation decreased in 2020, but that doesn’t mean actual maltreatment is down,” said Human Services Commissioner Jodi Harpstead. “We believe this trend is pandemic driven.”
The reduced number of reports is likely due to several impacts of the pandemic. Vulnerable adults are not interacting with mandated reporters as often, or in the face-to-face ways they were pre-pandemic. Other possibilities include the cancellation of medical appointments due to fear of COVID-19 exposure; a reduction in community services, such as adult day care; and less interaction with family and caregivers.
The health department investigates complaints related to maltreatment, quality of life and quality of care at health care facilities including hospitals, nursing homes, assisted living and home health agencies.
“We are not done with the pandemic, but there are positive signs around the state – especially in long-term care settings,” said Minnesota Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm. “As we are seeing improvement, we are encouraging families, residents and facilities to reconnect around care plans and broader care goals to ensure loved ones stay healthy.”
Experts urge friends, families and acquaintances of vulnerable adults to be more aware of signs of potential maltreatment, such as:
• Physical changes, such as bruises, weight loss or poor hygiene.
• Emotional changes, such as heightened anxiety, depression or unusual behavior.
• Uncharacteristic expenses or failure to pay bills or keep appointments.
If you suspect abuse:
If you suspect a vulnerable adult is being abused, call the Minnesota Adult Abuse Reporting Center, 1-844-880-1574.
• Minnesota Department of Human Services: http://www.mn.gov/dhs/adult-protection.
• Senior Linkage Line, which connects older Minnesotans and their caregivers to local services: 1-800-333-2433 or http://www.minnesotahelp.info.
• Disability Hub MN, which helps people with disabilities solve problems, navigate the system and plan for the future: 1-866-333-2466 or http://www.disabilityhubmn.org.
• National Center on Elder Abuse, which includes an FAQ about elder abuse on its website.