APS Legal Issues. APS services are usually administered by state or local health departments. In most states, APS serves those who are 18 and older and fit the above description. In some states, APS provides service only to those age 60 and older. A few programs serve ages 18-59. In all cases, however, the aim is to enable the impaired person to live safely and as independently as possible in their home and community. Impaired may be defined as physical illness or disability, mental illness, or difficulties brought on by advancing age.
APS involvement in a case generally begins after someone, often a friend or neighbor, suspects abuse or exploitation of an at-risk adult and reports that suspicion on an abuse hotline or to an APS office. The critical nature of the report usually determines if the police or an emergency medical staff are called. If not, an assigned APS caseworker will begin an investigation to judge the level of risk to the victim as well as his or her ability to understand that risk and provide informed consent to further investigation. When the investigation is completed, a service plan to aid the victim is developed, which may involve other community resources, such as emergency shelter, meals and transportation, medical and mental services, and in-home care.
In the United States, impaired or at-risk adults can receive help from Adult Protective Services (APS). It aids those people who:
- have mental or physical impairments that prevent them from independent living
- have no one at home to assist or care for them
- because of their impairment, are at risk of abuse, neglect, or exploitation.
People who have serious mental and/or physical impairment are often at risk of abuse by those – whether family members, friends, or medical workers – who care for them. This abuse can take many forms, such as verbal, physical, and sexual. In addition, at-risk adults are often financially exploited because their capacity to understand such matters is compromised. Abuse may also be defined simply as neglect by a designated caretaker. When abuse is involved, the ‘APS’ caseworker continues to monitor the situation until those risks are eliminated or greatly reduced (In these times a nursing home abuse lawyer is often called).
In a report on those who need APS services, some states also list self-neglect. That describes someone who cannot take care of him- or herself because of physical or mental impairment.
The decisions that the APS makes for a person’s care are not always biding. If people with physical or mental impairment are able to understand their living conditions, they can refuse aid. In some states, impaired people who are judged to be competent also have the right to refuse an APS investigation. In that case, the ‘APS’ will have no further involvement except to tell the person of other possible resources in the community or state.