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Regional Center Staff
This Months Featured Article
August

Preventing Physical Abuse

As a staff person working at a Regional Center in California , you may ask yourself, “What can I do that would directly protect consumers from being abused?” There are several things:

  • Report abuse when you see it or suspect it. Time is of the essence! Don’t delay reporting any suspicions! Let the experts sort out the details but remember that you are a mandated reporter. Your personal ethical and legal responsibility is to assure that the consumer is safe.

  • Be vigilant in your observations of the consumer. Observing the person’s appearance and demeanor can be the first sign that something is not right. Abuse of any type may be suspected when there are behavior and physical changes noted in the consumer. Watch for excessive fearfulness, an unkempt appearance, loss of weight, a regression in the skills that the person once possessed and any unexplained injuries. If you learn to spot abuse then you will be part of stopping abuse and making the community safer for everyone.

  • Be vigilant in observing while in the consumer’s environment. When visiting the home or work site, you are in a position to see possible clues that may be of concern to you. Unannounced visits should be welcomed by providers. This doesn’t mean that you should be obtrusive but you should be able to visit the consumer and have time alone with him or her. Trust yourself! If you are getting a “bad feel” about a site, there is probably a good reason. Don’t forget to include transportation providers when you are checking on the environmental conditions experienced by consumers. One study estimates that about 5% of incidents of abuse occur while the person is being transported. Don’t forget that other consumers may be a significant source of abuse. If you have concerns about a consumer’s safety, identify the issue to your supervisor. Work closely with providers and co-workers to put in place specific plans to address the issues of safety for all consumers.

  • Stay current on all incident reports that involve consumers or homes that you work with. As you review a consumer’s incident reports, look for patterns and trends such as time of day, who is working at the time, type of accidents and injuries, numbers of unknown occurrences and other “red flags” that may indicate problems. The Special Incidents Reports (SIR) Coordinator is a good source for data that can help you spot troublesome patterns. The Quality Assurance staff can help by providing you with information on the status of a provider’s license, plan of correction or sanctions.

  • Good communication between persons involved with the consumer is a significant factor in spotting and preventing abusive situations. Nursing staff, for instance, may be aware of health issues that could be the result of abuse and the Service Coordinator may have suspicions. Putting the information together provides a more complete picture. Think about how information is communicated within your Regional Center and think of ways to improve the flow of information.

  • Be an activist! There are very few educational programs for consumers to help them learn abuse awareness and prevention. Personal safety training can be a very effective and appropriate experience for consumers. In some cases, just learning what to report and how to report will empower the consumer to advocate on his/her own behalf. Find out if other community groups such as parent organizations, provider organizations, local law enforcement and others are offering or developing such training programs and then assist consumers to attend. The curriculum should be adjusted to meet the needs of the audience. Reinforce the learning that occurs when you are with the consumer. Just because you don’t know of such programs now doesn’t mean that you could not be instrumental in bringing such educational offerings to your community.

  • Consumers who have close personal relationships with trusted others such as family or friends are less likely to be abused. Any way that you can foster such relationships will make the consumer safer. Encouraging or facilitating close relations with trusted family and others will not only improve the quality of life for the consumer but will contribute to increased safety.

 

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