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Information for Adults

A vulnerable adult is anyone over the age of 18 who cannot always protect themselves from harm and may need care services because of mental illness, physical impairment or learning disability, age, illness, or personal circumstances. Describing someone as vulnerable should never be taken to mean that they lack capacity or cannot make their own decisions about their life; instead, the term simply means that they may be more likely to experience exploitation or abuse and may have greater difficulty addressing the situation if it does occur.

A vulnerable adult may be:

  • A person with mental health problems
  • A person with dementia
  • A person with learning disabilities
  • A person with physical or sensory impairments
  • A person with HIV or AIDS
  • A person who has problems with drugs or alcohol
  • A person who is homeless or who may become homeless

An abuser may be a family member, a partner or friend, a neighbour, a member of staff at a service, another vulnerable adult, a stranger, or a group of people, and abuse may take place at home, in someone else’s home, in a public place, in the street, or at a day centre, hospital, or college. Abuse and exploitation come in many forms, including:

  • Physical abuse
  • Sexual abuse
  • Psychological abuse
  • Financial abuse
  • Neglect and acts of omission
  • Discriminatory abuse
  • Institutional abuse