The following definitions of abuse, neglect, and financial exploitation apply to in-home investigations:

For more information, please see the Texas Administrative Code §705.1001 et seq. and the DFPS In-Home Handbook.

Substantial Impairment

For legal definitions of Substantial Impairment, please refer to the DFPS Handbook. Below, you'll find explanation of Substantial Impairment based on definitions found in the TFC.

  • The person is consistently or frequently unable to perform basic activities to function well in day-to-day adult life.
  • The person has a poor prognosis and is not expected to improve.

Some examples of basic daily activities are:

  • Walking.
  • Using the bathroom.
  • Personal hygiene.
  • Eating.
  • Cooking.
  • Cleaning.
  • Shopping.
  • Managing money.
  • Taking medications.
  • Obtaining support services.

A person is not considered substantially impaired if he or she:

  • Is capable of protecting themselves from abuse, neglect, or financial exploitation.
  • Can consistently manage activities and get any services needed to function well in day-to-day adult life.
  • Has a good prognosis and is expected to improve.

Caretaker vs. Paid Caretaker

Caretaker: A person who (through actions, words or guidance) accepts responsibility to physically protect or provide food, shelter, or emotional care to an adult who is elderly or has disabilities. The caretaker could be a guardian or representative payee (a person designated to manage a vulnerable adult's Social Security benefits).

Paid Caretaker: An employee of an agency that provides home and community support services (licensed under Chapter 142, Health and Safety Code) or an individual, or a family member hired and paid to provide personal care services to an adult who is elderly or with disabilities.

Physical Abuse

Please refer to the Texas Administrative Code §705.1003 for the legal definition of Physical Abuse.

Physical abuse is any knowing, reckless, or intentional act or failure to act which caused or may have caused physical injury, emotional harm, or death. Physical abuse may include inappropriate or excessive force, unreasonable confinement, intimidation or corporal punishment.

The following terms are integral to defining physical abuse:

Unreasonable Confinement: An act that results in a forced isolation from the people one would normally associate with, including friends, family, neighbors, and professionals. It is also the act of inappropriate restriction of movement, or the use of any inappropriate restraint.

Physical Injury: Physical pain, harm, illness, or any impairment of physical condition.

Emotional Harm: A highly unpleasant mental reaction with obvious signs of distress, such as anguish, grief, fright, humiliation, or fury.

Intimidation: Behavior by actions or words creating fear of physical injury, death, or  abandonment. 

Corporal Punishment: Causing physical pain by hitting, paddling, spanking, slapping, or any other physical force used as a means of discipline.

Inappropriate or Excessive Force: When more force than necessary is used, it is considered inappropriate or excessive.

Emotional or Verbal Abuse

Please refer to the Texas Administrative Code §705.1007 for the legal definition of emotional or verbal abuse.

Emotional or verbal abuse is:

  • Any act by a paid caregiver of cursing, vilifying, humiliating, degrading, or threatening that results in emotional harm.
  • Any act by a non-paid caregiver of verbal or other communication to threaten violence that makes a reasonable person fearful of physical injury.

The following terms are integral to defining emotional or verbal abuse:

Emotional Harm: A highly unpleasant mental reaction with obvious signs of distress, such as anguish, grief, fright, humiliation, or fury.

Reasonable Person: A person who exercises average care, skill, and judgment in conduct.

Sexual Abuse

Please refer to the Texas Administrative Code §705.1005 for the legal definition of sexual abuse.

Sexual abuse is any non-consensual sexual activity. This may include, but is not limited to, any activity that would be a sexually-oriented offense as found in the Texas Penal Code Chapter 21 (indecent exposure), Chapter 22 (assaultive offenses), or Chapter 43 (public indecency) in which the perpetrator has an ongoing relationship with the victim.

Neglect

Please refer to the Texas Administrative Code §705.1009 for the legal definition of neglect.

Physical Neglect could be self-neglect or caused by a caregiver.

Self neglect: If a person is not able to take care of their physical needs like getting food, shelter, or avoiding emotional harm or physical injury, If someone fails to provide for themselves the protection, food, shelter, or care necessary to avoid emotional harm or physical injury, he or she could be causing physical neglect to themselves.
Neglect by Caregiver: If the act of a caregiver caused emotional harm, physical injury, or death.

Medical Neglect is the lack of medical care or medication to prevent harm or pain. It is considered medical neglect, if the adult is not competent to make the choice for himself or herself to follow through with the needed medical treatment, or if his or her caregiver does not follow through with the needed medical treatment.

Mental Health Neglect is untreated or under-treated mental illness that results in other allegations of abuse, neglect or exploitation. APS does not investigate allegations of mental health neglect when no other allegations of abuse, neglect or exploitation are present.

For more information please see the Texas Administrative Code §705.1001 et seq. and the DFPS In-Home Handbook.

Financial Exploitation

Please refer to the Texas Administrative Code §705.1011 for the legal definition of financial exploitation.

Financial exploitation is the illegal or improper use of another person’s money or property for personal profit or gain.

Financial exploitation of adults, who are elderly or with disabilities, includes using another person's social security number or other identifying information, for monetary or personal benefit, profit, or gain without the informed consent of the adult.