- Health and Human Services
- Aging & Disability Resource Center
- Adult Protective Services
Adult Protective Services
Adult Protective Services (APS) staff aid vulnerable, adults with disabilities and elder persons who have been abused, neglected, or exploited. They conduct investigations on referrals related to identified risk areas.
If you suspect an elder adult or Adult-at-Risk (any adult who has a physical or mental condition that substantially impairs their ability to care for their needs) has experienced, is currently experiencing, or is at risk of experiencing abuse, neglect, self-neglect, or financial exploitation, your first step is to contact APS at 262-741-3200 or toll free at 800-365-1587. If someone is in immediate, life-threatening danger, call the Sheriff’s Department at 262-741-4400 or 9-1-1 immediately.
Abuse of the elderly often goes unreported because many victims don’t think of it as a crime—but it is. People are not necessarily charged with “elder abuse,” but may be charged under state law for crimes such as stealing, battery, causing undo harm, domestic abuse, and other violations. Knowing the signs of abuse and how to report it is the first step in preventing further abuse. If you suspect that an elderly person you know is being harmed physically or emotionally or being preyed upon financially, it is important to step in and report the crime. Adult Protective Services investigated the following types of risks/abuse:
- Emotional abuse
- Financial exploitation
- Physical abuse
- Sexual abuse
- Treatment without consent
- Unreasonable confinement or restraint
Types of Abuse
- Financial Exploitation
- Self Neglect
- Treatment Without Consent
- Unreasonable Confinement or Restraint
Financial exploitation/abuse continues to be a growing problem in this state and older persons need to be cautious about what personal information they share with strangers who may contact them by mail, telephone, or email. Those who take advantage of older persons may include family members or friends who are asking about an individual’s finances who have no legitimate reason for doing so.
Neglect is a form of mistreatment by individuals resulting from inadequate attention, especially through carelessness or disregard for the needs of others. There are different forms of neglect including:
- Abandonment: Involves deserting the care-giving needs of an individual while neglecting to arrange sufficient care and support for the duration of the absence
- Emotional neglect: Includes causing emotional pain, distress or anguish by ignoring, belittling or infantilizing the needs of adults. This includes neglecting or discounting the emotional well-being of others, as well as actions to isolate adults from visits or contact by family and friends
- Financial neglect: Involves disregarding a person’s financial obligations such as failing to pay rent or mortgage, medical insurance or invoices, utility and garbage bills, property taxes and assessments
- Physical neglect: Includes failing to attend to a person’s medical, hygienic, nutrition and dietary needs, such as:
- Changing bandages
- Dispensing medications
- Failure to provide ample food to maintain health
Under Wisconsin law, self-neglect is also a form of abuse. This might be a situation where an individual, often through no fault of his or her own, is just not able to care for themselves and, as a result, their physical well-being is at risk.
If an adult has the capacity to make a voluntary and informed decision to consent to or refuse a particular treatment, their decision must be respected. Consent to treatment means a person must give permission before they receive any type of medical treatment, test or examination. If an individual is given treatment without consent and does not have an activated Health Care Power of Attorney or is viewed by a healthcare professional as not having the capacity to make a decision, this would be viewed as potential abuse.
The intentional and unnecessary confinement of an individual in a locked room, involuntary separation from his or her living area, use of physical restraints, or the provision of unnecessary or excessive medication
Power of Attorney (POA)
A Power of Attorney is a legal document you use to allow another person to act for you. A Power of Attorney specifies the powers you give to the appointed person who is considered your agent. The powers can be limited or broad. The decisions the agent(s) make for you may concern your assets and financial affairs and/or your medical care and end of life choices. There are two primary types including: Power of Attorney-Finance and Power of Attorney-Healthcare.
A durable power of attorney for finances is a simple, inexpensive, and reliable way to arrange for someone to manage your finances if you become incapacitated (unable to make decisions for yourself). You can give your selected agent broad power to handle all of your finances, or you can give them as little power as you wish. For more information about the POA-Finance and access to the free finance form from the State of Wisconsin Department of Health Service (PDF) PDF PDF PDF PDF PDF .
A health care power of attorney allows you to grant a trusted person, known as an agent, the authority to make medical and end-of-life care decisions on your behalf if you were to become incapacitated. When selecting an agent you should talk with them about future medical treatment and what your wishes would be. For more information about the POA-HC and access to the Power of Attorney Health Care form from the State of Wisconsin Department of Health Service (PDF) PDF PDF PDF PDF PDF PDF .
A guardian is a person appointed by a court to manage the affairs of a person who is incapacitated. An incapacitated individual is a person who is unable to effectively receive and/or evaluate information or make or communicate decisions to such a degree that the individual lacks the ability to take care of his/her basic needs of physical health, safety or self-care.
Learn about times when a guardian will be appointed:
- A guardian may be appointed to manage the financial affairs of a person at significant risk of harm because of a
demonstrated inability to adequately manage property or financial affairs.This is referred to as Guardian of an Estate.
- A guardian may be appointed to make health care and other non-financial decisions for a person at significant risk of harm because of a
demonstrated inability to adequately provide for nutrition, health, housing or physical safety.This is referred to as Guardian of the Person.
- A guardian may be appointed to be both Guardian of both the Person and the Estate.
If you are seeking guardianship on behalf of another individual and are looking for a corporate guardian, Wisconsin Department of Health Services provides a Corporate Guardianship Agency DirectoryPDFPDF PDF . A corporate guardianship is a corporation or individual established to provide guardianship services for individuals who have no close family or other support systems and who need legal protection.
It is often assumed that everyone has family or friends willing to assist them when they lose the ability to make their own decisions. Unfortunately not everyone has someone willing to be responsible for decision making. Because seniors are the fastest growing segment of our population, the need for volunteer guardians will only continue to increase. Your willingness to serve in the role of Volunteer Guardian to help someone with making decisions is needed. If you are interested in becoming a volunteer guardian, contact the Walworth County Volunteer Services office at 262-741-4223 or go to their webpage.
- Attend an appointment hearing at County Probate Court
- Make a minimum of one case contact per month (phone, in-person or email)
- Participate in care conferences at the ward's facility (if applicable)
- Submit an Annual Report on the Condition of the Ward as required by the Court
- Visit your ward one time a month in person
- Attend a training and receive a copy of the publication provided by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, Guardianship for Adults
- Be at least 18 years of age
- Complete an application
- Complete a background check
- Have reliable transportation
Reports & Evaluations of Guardians
- Annual Plan for Guardianship - Informs the Court where the ward will be living and of any planned care changes
- Guardian's Annual Report - This tells the court how the ward is doing, where the ward is residing, any changes in the ward's circumstances and any changes in the ward's circumstances and your contact with the ward.
- Statement of Expert Evaluation - This form must be completed by a Licensed Physician, Licensed Clinical Psychologist, Licensed Independent Social Worker, Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor or the ward's DD service provider team. It must be less than 90 days old.