Learn More About Elder Abuse

What is elder abuse?

Elder Abuse includes various types of abuse by another person or entity, in any setting, either in a relationship where there is an expectation of trust and/or when an older person is targeted based on age or disability.  Elder Abuse includes:

  • Neglect
  • Physical Abuse
  • Sexual Abuse
  • Financial Abuse
  • Emotional Abuse

Who are the victims of elder abuse?

Elder abuse victims are any older adults 60 years of age or older. Reported cases reveal that elder abuse disproportionately impacts:

  • Persons who are isolated, living in poverty or have cognitive impairments, such as dementia
  • Women
  • Residents of long-term care facilities

Who commits elder abuse & why does it occur?

Elder abuse can be committed by just about anyone and often includes intimate partners, adult children and other family members, caregivers (paid or unpaid), people who are trusted, and strangers.

Elder abuse occurs out of greed, predatory behaviors, and power and control. Of note, elder abuse does not occur because of caregiver stress.

What are the signs and symptoms of abuse?

The signs and symptoms of elder abuse, which often co-occur, include:

  • Physical abuse – signs to look for include bruises, broken bones, over or under medicating, not allowing visitors to see the elder alone or elder’s report of abuse.
  • Sexual abuse – signs of sexual abuse are bruises around breasts or genital area, STDs, unexplained bleeding, torn, stained or bloody underclothing or elder’s report of abuse.
  • Emotional abuse – characteristic signs are being emotionally upset or agitated, extremely withdrawn and non-communicative or non-responsive, unusual behavior (e.g. sucking, biting, rocking, etc.) or elder’s report of abuse.
  • Neglect – neglect is defined as a failure to fulfill one’s obligations or duties to provide care to an elder adult. Common signs of neglect are poor hygiene, pressure sores, malnutrition, dehydration, medication errors, unsafe or unclean living conditions or an elder’s report of neglect.
  • Financial Exploitation – financial abuse or exploitation is defined as the illegal or improper use of an elder’s funds, property or assets. To identify financial exploitation of an elder adult, watch for sudden changes in bank account activity or bank practices including withdrawal of large sums of money, adding names to accounts, unauthorized withdrawal of funds using an ATM card, abrupt changes in a will or other financial documents, quick deeding their home to another person, unexplained disappearance of funds or valuable possessions, substandard care being provided or bills unpaid, or an elder’s report of financial exploitation.

How big of a problem is elder abuse?

Unfortunately, elder abuse is a significant problem.  Tennessee Adult Protective Services (APS), the investigative state agency, received close to 2,000 referrals for elder abuse in 2012 for just Shelby County, Tennessee – 30% are substantiated cases. However, elder abuse is considered the SILENT EPIDEMIC because only 1 in 23 cases of elder abuse are reported.

Why don’t people report elder abuse?

Because 90% of elder abuse cases are attributable to family members, often victims are embarrassed, ashamed, and afraid. They don’t want to get family members in to trouble, they don’t want to be considered incapable and they have a fear of going into a nursing home. As well, a caregiver may be using threatening behavior to exert control over an older adult.

How can I make a referral or get help?

To get help or to refer a case of suspected elder abuse or neglect in Tennessee, call Tennessee Adult Protective Services toll free at 1-888-APS-TENN (1-888-277-8366).

For additional help information, view our “Get Help” page

Regarding “Duty to Report” – you do not have to prove that elder abuse or neglect has happened, you just need to report it so the professionals can make the determination.  So don’t delay, report suspected elder abuse today!