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Older Americans Month

Tuesday, May 26, 2020 | 10:54am

This month is Older Americans Month. Tennessee’s elderly are invaluable members of our communities, deserving our utmost appreciation, and attention.  During Older Americans Month, we pause to draw upon the knowledge and experience older adults bring to our families, our communities, and Tennesseans as a whole. During the COVID-19 pandemic we can overcome through the determination of Tennessee’s most experienced individuals who have overcome a diverse range of America’s historically challenging times.

The elderly population has defended our freedoms, raised families and rebuilt our economy after the devastation of the Great Depression. They worked hard for what they earned and provided grit, hope and determination for our Nation throughout times of war when our liberty was in jeopardy and we needed it the most.

Today, the elderly pour their time and love into their families, mentoring and volunteering for their communities. They offer all Tennesseans their unique wisdom from years of life lessons which is so important as we combat the difficulties that we are facing today. According to the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging, older Americans lose an estimated $2.9 billion annually from financial exploitation. As Tennessee’s elderly population are among the most susceptible to fraud and other financial schemes, it is one of our Department’s priorities to safeguard the elderly from financial exploitation. In return for all that the elderly population has done for our Nation, the least we can do is stay vigilant of the red flags and report elderly abuse when we witness it.

During this uncertain time, as they are among those most vulnerable to the ravages of the coronavirus, we must acknowledge that far too many of the elderly are facing hardships of loneliness and social isolation.  Many families are unable to visit elderly parents and grandparents, and many in retirement - and especially those living in nursing homes  - have been cut off from personal contact and many social connections. We must recommit to doing what we can to support and care for them and to remember the signs of elder abuse, so they are not targeted during this vulnerable time.

Some signs to report are as follows:

Warning Signs of Physical Abuse

  • Bruising, especially in the torso or head; frequent injuries from accidents
  • Broken eyeglasses or frames
  • Caregiver’s refusal to allow visitors alone with the older person

Warning Signs of Emotional Abuse

  • Isolation of the older person or refusing to allow visits alone with the senior
  • Observed threatening or belittling of the older person by the caregiver

Warning Signs of Neglect

  • Unusual weight loss
  • Malnutrition
  • Dehydration
  • Untreated physical problems       
  • Unsafe and unsanitary living conditions such as dirt, vermin, soiled clothes and bedding
  • Inappropriate clothing for the weather
  • Desertion or abandonment of the older person in a public place

Warning Signs of Financial Exploitation

  • Significant withdrawals from the vulnerable adult’s accounts
  • Sudden changes in their financial circumstances
  • Valuable items or cash missing from their home
  • Increase in junk mail soliciting purchases or payments for sweepstakes money
  • Neglect of the victim, such as no food in the home; and maintenance and repairs of the home are ignored

If you suspect that you or your loved one might be a victim of securities or insurance fraud, or if you would like to file a complaint or speak with an investigator, please contact the Tennessee Securities Division at (615) 741-5900. For insurance specifics you can reach out to our Consumer Insurance Services Section at (615) 741-2218.

I urge all Tennesseans to reach out to their loved ones, neighbors, and elderly communities to extend love, compassion, and encouragement.  Some safe examples to do that are by delivering food and supplies to their home so that they are not putting themselves at risk by traveling to the grocery store, mailing greeting cards, or using technology like Skype, Zoom, and Facetime to stay connected.  We can support elders and ensure that they are safe from the world of evil scammers.

This month, and always, let’s support Tennessee’s elderly community to ensure that they can continue to live lives filled with joy and be able to appreciate the freedoms they have long fought to maintain.

Hodgen Mainda serves as the Commissioner for the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance and State Fire Marshal.