Elder abuse, affecting millions of older adults worldwide, is a critical issue that often stays hidden and unaddressed. As we continue to see an aging population, we must dedicate ourselves to understanding, recognizing, and combating this grave concern. This article aims to provide a comprehensive guide about elder abuse, seeking to educate and empower us all.

Unraveling the Reality of Elder Abuse

Elder abuse is complex, often taking different forms, including:
  • 1

    Physical abuse: Includes acts of violence causing physical pain or harm.

  • 2

    Emotional or Psychological abuse: Encompasses causing emotional distress through verbal or nonverbal acts.

  • 3

    Sexual abuse: Involves non-consensual sexual contact or actions.

  • 4
    Neglect: Refers to failing to provide necessary care for an elder.
  • 5
    Financial exploitation: Includes illegal or improper use of an elder’s resources.

According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, only 1 in 14 cases ever come to the attention of authorities, signifying the extent to which this problem lurks in the shadows.

Know the Warning Signs

Each form of elder abuse comes with its unique warning signs:

  • Physical Abuse: Bruising, especially on the torso or head; frequent injuries attributed to accidents; broken eyeglasses or frames; caregiver’s refusal to allow visitors alone with the elder.
  • Emotional Abuse: Isolation of the elder; refusal by the caregiver to allow visits alone with the senior; observed threatening or belittling of the elder.
  • Sexual Abuse: Unexplained medical issues related to private areas; distressing changes in behavior, especially when interacting with certain individuals or in relation to sexual topics; sudden and unexplained changes in the state or cleanliness of undergarments.
  • Neglect: Unusual weight loss; malnutrition; dehydration; untreated physical problems; unsafe and unsanitary living conditions; inappropriate clothing for the weather; desertion or abandonment of the elder in a public place.
  • Financial Exploitation: Significant withdrawals from the elder’s accounts; sudden changes in financial circumstances; valuable items or cash missing from their home; increase in junk mail soliciting purchases or payments for sweepstakes; neglect of the victim, such as no food in the house; and ignored home maintenance and repairs.
Elder Abuse

Tennessee’s Response

Tennessee is a mandatory reporting state, which means if you see or suspect elder abuse, you must report it. According to the Tennessee Commission on Aging and Disability, here are the steps to follow:

  • If the abuse is happening now, call 911 immediately.
  • If you suspect abuse, call the Tennessee Department of Human Services Adult Protective Services unit at 888-277-8366

  • If the abuse is physical, call Tennessee Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-356-6767

Resources and Support for Victims

For victims of abuse, resources such as therapy, counseling, support groups, and legal and financial services can aid in recovery. Organizations like the National Center on Elder Abuse provide information, resources, and a hotline for advice and reporting. If we at Smoky Mountain Home Health and Hospice can be of any assistance to you, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Elder abuse is a societal issue that demands our attention and action. Thankfully, more light is being shined on it. June 15 has been designated by the United Nations as World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. Let’s make a difference – whether it’s personal vigilance, community initiatives, or policy advocacy, every step counts towards building a world where our elders are safe, respected, and cared for.