How Can I Protect My Disabled Sister From Neglectful Family Members?

by Rania Combs

I received a heartbreaking letter from someone concerned that her 60 year old old sister, who was in a terrible accident a year ago that left her disabled, was being neglected by her sons and the man she lives with. Apparently, she currently resides in a dilapidated structure with no running water.

She wondered what she could do to help her sister.

Texas Adult Protective Services (APS) investigates reports of abuse, neglect, and exploitation of elderly or disabled adults.

If you suspect an elderly person or disabled person is being victimized, you should call the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) hotline at 1-800-252-5400 to report the abuse. DPFS will gather information to determine whether the reported conduct meets the legal definition of abuse, neglect, or exploitation. According to the DFPS:

  • Abuse is defined as mental, emotional, physical, or sexual injury, or the failure to prevent such injury.
  • Neglect is defined as conduct that results in starvation, dehydration, over or under-medication, unsanitary living conditions, and lack of heat, running water, electricity, medical care, and personal hygiene.
  • Exploitation is defined as misusing the resources of an elderly person or person with disability for personal or monetary benefit. Exploitation includes taking Social Security or SSI checks, abusing a joint checking account, or taking property or other resources.

Reports of conduct that meet the legal definition of abuse, neglect, or exploitation will prompt the APS to initiate an investigation. The investigation will include an in-home visit, and interviews with those who may have information about the alleged mistreatment.

If the investigation by APS concludes that an elderly or disabled person is being abused, neglected, or exploited, action will be taken to stop or prevent future harm. This can include: financial assistance, social services, health services (such as medical care, mental health care, or home healthcare), and the initiation of legal actions to rectify the situation.

You can report abuse, neglect, or exploitation anonymously or confidentially. Either way, your identity will not be disclosed.

If you suspect that a friend or neighbor is being victimized, please contact the Department of Family and Protective Services right away.

About Rania

Rania graduated magna cum laude from South Texas College of Law Houston and is the founder of Rania Combs Law, PLLC. She has been licensed to practice law since 1994 and enjoys helping clients in Texas and North Carolina create estate plans that give them peace of mind.

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