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  • Writer's pictureRobert Schuerger II

How Do You Prove Elder Abuse in Tennessee?

Elder abuse is an alarmingly growing problem in the United States. According to an opening statement from Nashville Public Television's Aging Matters, over 5 million elders are abused in the country. The figure exceeds the number of child abuse and domestic violence victims combined.


Unfortunately, people are more susceptible to different types of elder abuse as they get older.


What Is Elder Abuse?

What Is Elder Abuse?


Based on the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) definition, this term describes a caregiver's or "trusted" individual's neglectful or intentional acts that harm a vulnerable adult, whether they are aged 60 and older or have disabilities.


Sadly, elder abuse can affect both women and men of all social statuses and ethnic backgrounds. Consult Schuerger Shunnarah Trial Attorneys for more information on what is considered abuse by a nurse.


Types of Abuse


Elder mistreatment can take many forms, such as physical, sexual, financial, psychological, and emotional abuse.


Self-neglect and abandonment could also be considered a type of mistreatment.

  • Physical abuse: A person inflicts or threatens to inflict physical harm, such as injury or physical pain, on a vulnerable elder. This category also includes depriving victims of basic needs.

  • Emotional abuse: Someone inflicts anguish, mental suffering, or distress on older adults through verbal and nonverbal acts.

  • Exploitation: A person takes, conceals, or misuses a vulnerable elder's property, funds, or assets.

  • Sexual abuse: This category describes non-consensual sexual acts of any kind and coercing elders to witness sexual behaviors.

  • Neglect: A responsible person refuses or fails to provide shelter, food, protection, or health care to elders.

  • Abandonment: Someone who has taken responsibility for the care or custody of a vulnerable elder abandons them.

  • Institutional abuse: Overall, institutional abuse generally refers to a form of mistreatment occurring in nursing homes, board and care facilities, foster homes, or other residential facilities. It's often perpetrated by someone with a legal obligation to provide care or protection to an elderly person.

While there are different types of elder abuse, victims can experience multiple forms of mistreatment. Someone who is not providing appropriate care or protection to a vulnerable adult may also be financially exploiting them, for example.


Signs of Elder Abuse


Identifying some types of elder abuse can be difficult, but the following are some common signs that may indicate that someone has become a victim of mistreatment.


Common Signs of Physical Abuse

Here are some potential indicators of physical abuse:

  • Pressure marks, bruises, abrasions, and burns (These signs may indicate neglect, mistreatment, or abuse)

  • Broken bones

  • Bedsores and unusual weight loss

  • Unattended medical needs and poor hygiene

  • Unexplained withdrawal from normal activities, including those once enjoyed

  • Sudden change in alertness

  • Unusual depression

  • Bruises around breasts or genital area (These signs may indicate sexual abuse)

  • Cuts, welts, and sores

  • Unexplained sexually transmitted diseases (It may suggest sexual abuse)

  • Use of power, including threats and belittling, by spouses

  • Frequent arguments

  • Strained and tense relationships

Common Signs of Emotional or Psychological Abuse


Elders are not only vulnerable to physical abuse. Making a person feel powerless or worthless is also considered a form of mistreatment. These are the signs to look for:

  • Isolation (If the caregiver or trusted individual does not let anyone into the house or speak to the elder)

  • Unexplained changes in behavior (there is no obvious reason, or they don't make sense), such as withdrawal from activities the elder used to participate in

  • A caregiver who looks unconcerned about the elder's care

  • A caregiver who is verbally demeaning, controlling, or aggressive

  • Trusted individuals overly concerned about spending money

  • Unattended drug and alcohol dependency

Common Signs of Financial Abuse and Exploitation


Sometimes, elders can also experience financial exploitation by the person responsible for caring for them, which can lead to sudden changes in their monetary situation.


The following are the most common signs:

  • A lack of a basic necessity even though the victim can afford it

  • A caregiver who fails to provide for the elder's needs even though they control the victim's money

  • A vulnerable elder gives unusually large amounts of money or large payments as gifts or in exchange for needed care or companionship

  • A vulnerable adult signs property transfers or other official documents but does not understand what they are doing or what the contracts mean

Common Signs of Neglect or Self-Neglect


Many elders also neglect their own care, resulting in injuries or illnesses. These are some behaviors that can indicate self-neglect:

  • Failure to provide adequate nutrition, including food and hydration, for oneself

  • Lack of medical aids, such as medications, glasses, or teeth

  • Hoarding of different objects, mail, newspapers, or magazines

  • Animal hoarding if it affects the safety of the individual or the community

  • A vulnerable elder with dementia left unsupervised

  • Lack of basic hygiene or clean clothing

  • Not wearing appropriate clothes for a specific weather

  • Cluttered, disrepair, or filthy home

  • Home displaying safety hazards

  • Elders or seniors confined to bed and left without care or displaying untreated pressure ulcers or bedsores

Proving Elder Abuse in Tennessee


In both Tennessee and other US states, proving elder abuse is complicated, as many signs are hard to spot. Therefore, seeking legal assistance from an experienced nursing home abuse attorney is the best course of action.

However, in most cases, it is necessary to prove that the abuse took place, the victim was 60 years old or older when it happened, and the perpetrator knew or should have known that they would cause harm to the elder with their actions.


If the abuse is financial, those representing the victims may be required to submit bank statements to prove they are exploited.


What Should Victims or Concerned People Do?

What Should Victims or Concerned People Do?


Tennessee law establishes that everyone is a "mandatory reporter," so they are required to report these signs if they believe an older adult is being abused or mistreated.


Reports can be made through the following:

  • Emergencies: 911.

  • Adult Protective Services (APS): 1-888-APS-TENN or 1-888-277-8366

  • Tennessee Adult Protective Services: Filling out an online form provided by the Department of Human Services

  • Tennessee Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-356-6767

  • Tennessee Long-Term Care Ombudsman (for institutional abuse in long-term care facilities or nursing homes)tel: 615-925-1552, toll-free: 877-236-0013, email: teresa.teeple@tn.gov

Contact Schuerger Shunnarah Trial Attorneys for Legal Guidance!


Elder abuse victims need legal assistance to prove mistreatment and seek justice.


The legal team at Schuerger Shunnarah Trial Attorneys has extensive experience handling these cases and is dedicated to helping older adults or elders fight for their rights.


This law firm's seasoned and caring attorneys will review each case, hold at-fault parties accountable for their actions, and help elder abuse victims regain the happiness and peace of mind they deserve during their golden years.


Contact Schuerger Shunnarah Trial Attorneys and get a free consultation. They'll go to war for you!

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