Elder Abuse

Elder Abuse

If you or someone you know is experiencing elder abuse or you’re unsure about whether or not your situation is elder abuse, please speak to an advocate at the Family Safety Center today at 615-880-1100.  If you know a senior citizen or disabled adult that has been abused or is being abused, everyone in Tennessee is required by law to report any elder abuse or vulnerable adult abuse immediately. To report abuse, you can call Adult Protective Services at 1-888-277-8366

Elder abuse refers to acts by a caregiver or other trusted person that can or do lead to harm of an older person (60-65 and older). In many states, adults with disabilities may qualify for protection as well. Elder abuse can include physical abusesexual abuseemotional or psychological abusefinancial abuse, neglect, exploitation, and abandonment.

Elder abuse can occur anywhere and can affect anyone. Women and “older” elders are more likely to be victimized. Some risk factors can include dementia, mental health issues, substance abuse issues, and isolation.

Red flags that a senior is being neglected:

  • They do not have enough food, clean or appropriate clothes, or they have poor hygiene.
  • They do not have medicine or medical aids (like eye glasses, walkers, dentures, or hearing aids).
  • They have dementia and are left unsupervised.
  • They are left in their bed with no one to care for them. They may also have bed sores from being left in the bed for too long.
  • Their home is cluttered, dirty, in bad shape, or have fire and safety hazards.
  • Their home doesn’t have basic amenities (like a stove, refrigerator, heat, AC, plumbing, or electricity).

Red flags that a senior is being financially abused or exploited:

  • They do not have basic amenities even though they can afford them.
  • They “voluntarily” give their caregiver lots of money or expensive gifts.
  • Their caregiver controls the senior’s money but doesn’t use it to take care of the senior.
  • They have signed a Power of Attorney or a new will but they don’t understand what they signed or what the documents mean.

Red flags that a senior is being emotionally or mentally abused:

  • They have a sudden change of behavior that can’t be explained. They might start withdrawing from things they activities they normally did or enjoyed or they might suddenly be less alert.
  • Their caregiver isolates the senior and doesn’t let them see certain people, talk to certain people, or spend time with certain people.
  • Their caregiver speaks to the senior in a very aggressive or demeaning way and is uncaring toward the senior.
  • Their caregiver is very controlling of the senior and tries to control all of their daily activities.

Red flags that a senior is being physically or sexually abused

  • They have injuries (like bone fractures, bruises, welts, knots, sores, cuts, or burns) that can’t be explained.
  • They develop a sexually transmitted disease.
Source: National Center on Elder Abuse

Click here to download the Abuse in Later Life Wheel.

If you or someone you love is experiencing elder abuse, call Adult Protective Services in Tennessee at 1-888-277-8366. Dial 911 if a senior citizen is in immediate danger.


If you think that you are in an abusive relationship, look at our safety planning page for ways to increase your safety and our resources page for community support.