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Tennessee Legislators Introduce Bills to Fight Elder Abuse

Elder abuse is a widespread but often under-reported problem. Studies show that only 1 out of every 14 cases of elder abuse are ever reported to the proper authorities. This statistic comes at the heels of data showing that citizens of the United States, and the world, are getting older. Worldwide, the percentage of adults aged 65 years or older is expected to triple to 1.5 billion people by 2050. In a recent survey, over 25% of Americans polled agreed that the growing number of aging adults is a major problem.

Currently, the elderly make up 15% of our nation’s population, and as mentioned above that number is expected to keep rising. If the trend of elder abuse and neglect continues to go unchecked, coupled with our growing population of elderly adults, more Americans will be subject to abuse in their lives. Abuse can take many forms including physical, financial, or sexual abuse.

Lawmakers in Tennessee and throughout the United States recognize the troubling trend of increased elder abuse are taking steps to ensure that our older adults are receiving the protection they deserve. In 2016, Tennessee lawmakers introduced legislation that created Vulnerable Adult Protective Investigative Teams in Tennessee, whose goal is to protect elderly and vulnerable adults. One way of accomplishing this goal is to promote information sharing between government agencies across the state.

Recently, a group of Tennessee legislators unveiled a group of bills aimed to add more protection to vulnerable and elderly adults in the state. Spearheaded by Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, these bills will modify existing protection acts and create harsher penalties for those who abuse the elderly.

Senate Bill 1230, also known as the “Elderly and Vulnerable Adult Protection Act,” adds to existing adult protection acts but creates new classes of felonies for those individuals who are found guilty of willful and intentional abuse. Norris noted the growing demographic of the elderly and the tragic issue of under-reporting as the basis for this legislation. Norris noted that physical, sexual, and financial fraud shot up by almost 20 percent in the U.S. between 2009 and 2013. More disturbing is that approximately 41 percent of elder abuse offenses are committed by a family member, with 13.3 percent being committed by someone with a “close relationship” to the victim.

The two other bills accompanying Bill 1230 provide avenues by which financial institutions and the Tennessee government can more effectively protect senior citizens against financial exploitation. Financial exploitation is often an extremely overlooked form of elder abuse.“Financial exploitation robs elderly victims of their money and their dignity,” said Gardenhire, a retired financial adviser. As a former adviser, Gardenhire has seen instances of financial abuse firsthand. Those closest to the victim, either in the capacity of a guardian (such as a nursing home) or even the victim’s own family members, can often access the victim’s banking accounts. The accounts are sucked dry, rendering victims essentially helpless.

If a loved one has been neglected in a Tennessee nursing home, call Nahon, Saharovich & Trotz at 1-800-529-4004. Our experienced nursing home negligence attorneys will evaluate to your situation and help you determine the proper course of action. Call today for a free initial consultation.