This week has been Safeguarding Adults Week and some interesting themes have been highlighted, here are our reflections on the themes and how they relate to people affected by dementia.
Emotional Abuse and Safeguarding Mental Health
Emotional abuse comes in many forms and although physical or sexual assault may not be present, the effects can be equally as traumatising.
People living with dementia may be at risk of emotional abuse through verbal abuse, blaming, controlling, or intimidation. It’s important that the people around them, strive to use positive language and never belittle, insult, or ridicule.
One of our values here at ADSS is that everyone’s rights and dignity should be promoted. This means ensuring that everyone living with dementia has personal choice and their privacy respected. Restriction of this is a form of emotional abuse and although you might think ‘I know what’s best for them’, this is not necessarily the case if a person’s thoughts and feelings are being disregarded.
There are many other forms of emotional abuse including forced isolation, threats of harm or abandonment, removing mobility and communication aids or leaving someone unattended when they require assistance.
Sometimes, it may be very hard to spot the signs of emotional abuse, however there are certain indicators you may recognise.
If you can sense discomfort when a particular person is present or there is abnormal silence, this could mean that someone is anxious or tense around this person. Withdrawal from their usual routine or activities may also raise concern as well as change of appetite or unexplained weight loss/gain.
The Power of Language
Another one of our values is that we believe in being inclusive and embracing everyone in our community. Dementia does not discriminate and neither do we, so alleviating the stigma surrounding dementia is at the very heart of everything we do.
It is imperative that we use language that empowers and respects people with dementia and that we understand the weight that our choice of language carries.
Using terms such as sufferer, senile, demented, mental, silly or ‘not all there’ are unhelpful and insulting ways to describe someone. They are a person with dementia and dementia does not define them. Every person is an individual with their own life experiences, personality traits as well as likes and dislikes. The person should always be put first and we should never make assumptions about how they are managing with their condition.
People living with dementia may be at risk of being exploited by online scammers, this has been especially heightened during the pandemic when many people were forced to maintain relationships and communication digitally.
According to City of London Police there has been a 400% rise in scams and fraud during the pandemic in various forms, including text and email phishing and in-person scammers.
If you or someone you care for receives an email or text claiming to be from your bank or a similar entity asking for any personal details, this is most likely illegitimate and fraudulent. Banks will never ask for personal details via text or email, so if you have any concerns call your bank and let them know so that they can verify this for you. Refrain from clicking any suspicious links in emails you receive, only open them if they are from a trusted source.
There have been many cases of scammers showing up at people’s doorsteps claiming to be someone they are not to gain people’s trust and try and get inside the house to steal from or exploit vulnerable individuals. Before letting a stranger in your house, ask what company they are from and contact them to confirm their visit. If you have any doubts at all then do not let them in.
Adult grooming can take many forms and one of these is financial abuse. The Care Act 2014 describes financial abuse as ‘having money or other property stolen, being defrauded, being put under pressure in relation to money or other property, and having money or other property misused.’ This can often be hard to detect, and the perpetrators are, more often than not, people that you know or even trust.
People with dementia can be at a higher risk of financial abuse than others, due to their potential cognitive difficulties. Abusers prey on the vulnerability of people living with dementia and often use manipulative tactics for momentary gain. This can leave people with dementia and their families unable to pay for the crucial support and care that they need.
Common examples of financial abuse include theft, withholding money from an individual, forging signatures on cheques, taking away pension payments/benefits or forcing someone to make changes to their will. These can have lasting effects and can often cause emotional trauma for those involved.To prevent this, people with dementia are advised to appoint a lasting power of attorney that they trust with their finances. The individual does not have to be a legal professional and you can appoint more than one if you wish.
The donor can appoint a property and financial affairs attorney, who should make decisions regarding the management of property, bills, pensions etc; or a welfare and health attorney, who should manage the donor’s healthcare provider, choice of care home and so on.
Creating Safer Organisational Cultures
Its important to acknowledge and understand your role in safeguarding as we all have a responsibility in both work and society to protect the health, wellbeing and human rights of individuals. This is to ensure that people can live free from abuse, harm and neglect.
Here at ADSS we are proudly using safeguarding as a way to help empower people living with dementia. We know we cannot get complacent about our confidence, to ensure that we always keep safeguarding and the safety of the people we support at the front of mind.
Ongoing communication between our teams and maintaining our relationship with the local safeguarding team will stand us in good stead, but above all we must ensure we keep trusting our instincts to know when something is not right and have the confidence to do something about it.