Safeguarding and MS

Safeguarding means protecting people’s health, wellbeing and human rights, and enabling them to live free from harm, abuse and neglect. Anyone can be at risk, but people with MS could be particularly vulnerable in some situations.

If you need support from others to manage your daily activities you may be at risk of abuse or neglect from the people who provide your care. This could be family members, friends, paid carers or health professionals.

Some examples of abuse or neglect that may affect people with MS are:

  • Physical abuse: such as hitting, pushing, restraining or giving the wrong medication
  • Emotional abuse: such as threatening, humiliating, isolating or ignoring
  • Sexual abuse: such as unwanted touching, forcing or coercing into sexual activity
  • Financial abuse: such as stealing, misusing or withholding money or possessions
  • Neglect: such as failing to provide adequate food, clothing, heating, hygiene or medical care
  • Discriminatory abuse: such as treating someone unfairly because of their disability, age, gender, race, religion or sexuality
  • Organisational abuse: such as poor or unsafe care practices by a care provider
  • Domestic abuse: any form of abuse by a partner, family member or someone who lives in the same household
  • Self-neglect: such as not looking after one’s own health, hygiene or safety

How can I recognise a safeguarding problem?

It's not always easy to spot the signs of abuse or neglect, even in someone you know well.

Behavioural signs of abuse in an adult might include changes to their character. They may be quiet and withdrawn, or appear tearful, helpless or depressed. The person may be aggressive or angry for no obvious reason, or may not want to be left by themselves with specific people.

Look out for physical signs such as bruises, cuts or untreated injuries, and look out for the same injuries happening more than once. The person may be thinner or weaker, or unkempt or dirty. Also, their home may be cold or unusually dirty or untidy, or you might notice things missing.

Other signs include a sudden change in their finances, such as not having as much money as usual to pay for shopping or regular outings, or getting into debt.

Watch out for any official or financial documents that seem unusual, and for documents relating to their finances that suddenly go missing.

If you feel someone you know is showing signs of being abused, talk to them to see if there's anything you can do to help.

If they're being abused, they may not want to talk about it straight away, especially if they've become used to making excuses for their injuries or changes in personality.

Do not ignore your concerns, though. Doing so could allow any abuse to carry on or escalate.

Who can help me with a safeguarding concern?

If you are a person with MS who receives care and support in your own home, you have the right to be safe and treated with dignity and respect. You also have the right to make your own decisions about your care and support, as long as you have the mental capacity to do so.

If you are worried about your safety or wellbeing, or if you think you are being abused or neglected by someone who provides care for you, you should speak to someone you trust, such as a friend, family member, health professional or social worker. 

Each local area has a Safeguarding Adults Board which ensures that adults at risk in your area can live life free from abuse, neglect, and exploitation. The Scottish equivalent of a safeguarding adults board is an adult protection committee.

You can find your local Safeguarding Adults Board and visit their website for advice and to contact your local Adult Service or Safeguarding Team. Their website will also contain information on how to make Safeguarding Adult referrals to your Local Authority.

You may also wish to speak to the police if you or someone you know is being harmed. 

Find out more

Safeguarding Vulnerable Adults: NHS information on spotting and reporting the abuse or neglect of vulnerable adults.

Find your local Safeguarding Adults Board A directory of local statutory bodies where you can raise a safeguarding concern.

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