Elder Abuse, Exploitation, and Neglect

It is against the law to abuse, neglect, or exploit a disabled or older adult. Elder abuse can be physical, sexual, or mental in nature and includes the deprivation of services by a caregiver (paid or unpaid), family member, friend, service provider, or stranger. Elder exploitation includes taking–through theft or scams–government funds paid to a disabled or older adult.

Exploitation can happen at the hands of anyone, from a family member to a stranger. Elder neglect can be the intentional or unintentional deprivation of activities or services that are necessary to life, such as health care, food preparation, and personal care. Seniors also can be the victims of self-neglect, an issue that must be addressed, even when unintentional.

Tennessee law requires any person who suspects abuse, neglect, or exploitation of a disabled or older adult to make a report to the Tennessee Department of Human Services (DHS). Contact the DHS Adult Protective Services at 1-888-277-8366 or 1-800-APS-TENN or report online at reportadultabuse.dhs.tn.gov.

Although DHS is specifically responsible for investigating cases involving government funds, there are other types of elder exploitation, such as taking other money or property, obtaining your signature on documents that you do not understand, or using power of attorney to misappropriate funds or property. While it is important to sign a power of attorney document, make sure you appoint someone you can trust to be your agent (attorney-in-fact). For information about how to avoid being the victim of scams, see Consumer Protection.