Elder Abuse Increasing in Tennessee, Comptrollers’ Report

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Elder financial exploitation is apparently increasing in Tennessee, according to a report that Tennessee Comptrollers released this week.

The Adult Protective Services (APS) program operates within the Tennessee Department of Human Services and operates a statewide hotline and reporting system for complaints about all types of elder abuse, the report said.

“APS also investigates reports of elder abuse. APS data confirms that, from 2015 to 2019, the number of reports it received for all elder abuse categories increased by 52 percent, while reports of financial exploitation increased by 87 percent,” according to a Comptrollers’ press release.

“One overarching concern, expressed by stakeholders across the state, is that state law limits the types of investigations of elder financial exploitation that APS, the agency most closely associated with issues concerning elder abuse, can undertake. APS can investigate these cases only when they involve a caregiver and the misuse of government funds.”

Comptrollers said that Tennessee’s approach to protect elderly adults from financial exploitation is made up of “a patchwork of state and local entities.”

“APS officials told OREA that the agency receives a large number of reports of suspected elder financial exploitation that do not meet the criteria for investigation under the law, and that it refers these to law enforcement and district attorneys general, among other entities,” the press release said.

“The effectiveness of Tennessee’s patchwork approach, however, is unknown due to data limitations. Although efforts have ramped up in recent years to better coordinate the review of suspected cases of elder financial exploitation, there is no statewide system to track elder financial abuse cases in Tennessee. Without a statewide system, it is not possible to track the progress or resolution of cases when they are shared between state and local agencies.

The lack of a statewide data system also prevented OREA from fully estimating the prevalence and cost of elder financial abuse in Tennessee.”

OREA’s research found that APS does not have enough intake workers and district attorneys lack the specialized staff to tackle the complexities of some elder financial exploitation cases. Intake workers at APS are not always able to follow up on each report, the press release said.

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Chris Butler is an investigative journalist at The Tennessee Star. Follow Chris on Facebook. Email tips to [email protected]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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