CARES Conference



The annual CARES Conference on Aging is a partnership between Tennessee Department of Human Services, Adult Protective Services and Tennessee State University, College of Public Service Center on Aging Research and Education Services (CARES). It brings together nationally recognized experts and trainers from around the country focused on addressing challenges among aging and vulnerable adults in the 21st century.

This free conference will provide an opportunity to learn about best practices in the field, enhance job skills and elevate public awareness of abuse, neglect, and exploitation of older and vulnerable adults. Law enforcement officers, district attorneys, service providers, health care workers, APS employees and anyone in the community who cares about older and vulnerable adults are invited. 

With feedback from the 2022 CARES conference, this year’s topics include Undue Influence, Bed Bug Infestations, Vicarious Trauma and Compassion Fatigue. An update on federal funding and policies for APS will also be provided by William Benson, National Policy Advisor to the National Adult Protective Services Association (NAPSA).

2023 CARES Conference

This year's conference will take place on Wednesday May 31st from noon to 4:15 P.M. & Thursday June 1st from 8:30 A.M. to 1 P.M. CST. at TN State University Avon Williams Campus 330 10th Ave. N Nashville TN.

Lunch is provided on the first day, breakfast and lunch are provided on day two and door prizes will be awarded.


DHS Commissioner Clarence H. Carter

Clarence H. Carter | TDHS Commissioner

Clarence H. Carter was appointed to serve as a member of Governor Bill Lee’s Cabinet as the Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Human Services (TDHS) in January 2021. Mr. Carter leads the state’s second-largest agency with an operating budget of more than $3 billion and nearly 4,000 employees working in offices in all 95 counties. Through more than 17 programs and services, the Department partners with Tennesseans to facilitate nutrition programs, employment assistance, vocational training, and protective services to enhance their well-being. 

Full Bio Here

Dr. Rodney E. Stanley

Dr. Rodney E. Stanley | Interim Dean of the College of Public Service at Tennessee State University

Dr. Rodney E. Stanley currently serves as the Interim Dean of the College of Public Service at Tennessee State University. Prior to his appointment as Interim Dean, Dr. Stanley served as the Department Chair for Public Administration for 14 years at TSU. Dr. Stanley’s research has focused on gaming policy and its impact on funding education across the fifty states. Dr. Stanley received his Ph.D. in Public Policy and Administration from Mississippi State University and his master’s degree in Public Administration from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.  Dr. Stanley enjoys the outdoors where he spends much of his leisure time with his two sons James and Mark and his wife Lisa.

Taryn Hughes

Taryn Hughes | Compassion Fatigue Therapist 

Taryn Hughes is a compassion fatigue therapist and founder of NYC-based, Forest, Hughes and Associates (FH&A), a firm dedicated to offering healing-centered trainings that addresses employees’ mental health needs without stigma. With more than 15 years of experience in direct trauma support, somatic therapy, nonprofit, education, and specialized training on the mental health needs of law enforcement professionals, Ms. Hughes has a deep personal understanding of the complexity and exhaustion often experienced by those who serve others. She regularly conducts workshops on and recovery programs for vicarious trauma, compassion fatigue, and empathic strain within the workplace.

Ms. Hughes is a Green Cross Academy of Traumatology graduate and member of the International Association of Trauma Professionals with coaching credentials from Texas State University. Beyond her passion for learning, human growth and development, and entrepreneurship, she enjoys dancing and spending time with loved ones in nature.

More information about Ms. Hughes and her work at FH&A can be found on the firm’s website at

Karen Vail

Karen Vail | Professor & Extension Urban Entomologist

Dr. Karen Vail is a Cook College and Rutgers University graduate with a master’s degree from Virginia Tech and a Ph.D. from the University of Florida. While working towards her Ph.D. degree, she worked on the Imported Fire Ant and Household Insects Unit as a member of the United States Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service team (USDA-ARS)

Currently, Dr. Vail serves as a professor and Extension Urban Entomologist in the Entomology and Plant Pathology Department at the University of Tennessee. Her Extension/research programs have focused on managing the common bed bug Cimex lectularius L., odorous house ant Tapinoma sessile (Say), imported fire ants Solenopsis spp., brown recluse Loxosceles reclusa and other urban pests. As the Extension Urban Entomologist, she provides leadership to pest management professionals, county agents, housing managers, other professionals, and the public pertaining to urban IPM programs.

William Benson

William Benson | NAPSA Policy Advisor & President of Health Benefits ABCs (HBABCs)

As the President of Health Benefits ABCs (HBABCs), an organization invested in health and aging policy, educational and strategic planning consulting services, Bill Benson’s work centers around preventing elder abuse and health care fraud and protecting consumers.  However, his commitment to this work spans his career.

In the late twentieth century, Mr. Benson spent eight years in leadership roles on Capitol Hill and became heavily involved in the nursing home reform provisions of 1987 and the 1987 and 1992 reauthorizations of the Older Americans Act, including the creation of the Elder Rights Title of the Act. Starting in 1998, Mr. Benson operated as the National Policy Advisor for the National Adult Protective Services Association (NAPSA), representing state and local Adult Protective Service (APS) programs. He played a key role on behalf of NAPSA in drafting and enacting the Elder Justice Act and other legislative initiatives related to elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation.

In his former role as the Acting Assistant Secretary for Aging (AoA) at the U.S. Administration on Aging, Mr. Benson led AoA’s role in Operation Restore Trust, the U.S. Government’s national anti-Medicare and Medicaid fraud initiative, the establishment of the Senior Medicare Program (SMP) program, and management of the Elder Rights program.

From 2006-2018 Mr. Benson worked with the Administration on Aging ‘s (AoA) national resource center for the states providing technical assistance to SMPs in their efforts to educate beneficiaries about fraud and abuse in the Medicare and Medicaid programs.

Between 2020 and 2021, he helped secure direct federal funding for states to use for the purpose of APS.

Mr. Benson’s work also supports elders who belong to Native American nations. As co-founder and president of the American Association for International Aging (IA2), he focuses on American Indian and Alaska Native (AIAN) elders. IA2 recently completed a federally funded project about health care providers’ experience in identifying elder abuse among AIAN patients. Mr. Benson is a former California State Long-Term Care Ombudsman and is a past president of the National Citizens Coalition for Nursing Home Reform (now Consumer Voice).

Outside of his work to protect older community members, Mr. Benson works to preserve the stories of older community members. In 2000, Mr. Benson began hosting First Person, a series of conversations with survivors of the Holocaust at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Usually conducted before a live audience, during the COVID pandemic, the session continued in a virtual setting.

Kathy Cherry

Kathy Cherry | RN, BSN, MSN, Registered Nurse Specialist

Kathy Cherry RN, BSN, MSN is Tennessee Adult Protective Services, Registered Nurse Specialist (RNS).  Ms. Cherry graduated from Methodist Hospital School of Nursing through the University of Wisconsin and obtained a Clinical Specialty in Forensic Nursing and Death investigation through the University of Colorado. She obtained Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) certification and started the first free-standing sexual assault center in Florida in 2010 where victims were treated and examined outside the busy emergency room. Ms. Cherry also provided child abuse examinations at the Children’s Advocacy Center through the University of Florida

Ms. Cherry’s career includes experience in general medicine, acute neurology, ICU and Emergency Room Nursing. She worked 17 years with Florida Adult Protective Services and 3 years with California Adult Protective Services. She has been with TN APS since 2021 and was the first nurse hired by the agency.  She is enjoying developing the program to support and protect vulnerable adults across the state.

Dr. Raymond Romano

Dr. Raymond Romano | MPH, MSN, PhD, Family Nurse Practitioner

Raymond Romano is a family nurse practitioner with experience in research and quality improvement. His focus is on health services research, and his specific interests are in the detection, diagnosis and care of dementia in the primary care setting. He earned his bachelor’s degree in biology at Marymount Manhattan College, his master’s degree in public health from Boston University and his master’s degree in nursing from Vanderbilt University. He completed his PhD at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center with studies around how alteration in the pain experience differs in those at risk for developing Alzheimer’s Disease. Dr. Ramano’s interest in dementia began as an undergraduate studying the role a certain protein plays in insulin-related neurodegenerative diseases. While at Boston University, he worked in clinical research at the school’s Alzheimer’s Disease Center, then moved to Nashville to join the Vanderbilt Memory and Alzheimer’s Center. He also completed a yearlong fellowship at the Department of Veterans Affairs, focusing on quality improvement.

Candace Heisler

Candace Heisler | JD, Heisler & Associates

Candace J. Heisler is a teacher, legal expert and author dedicated to public service. She served as Assistant District Attorney in San Francisco for more than 25 years, including 10 years as head of the Domestic Violence unit.  A graduate of the University of California’s Hastings College of the Law, she was an Assistant Adjunct Professor there for 20 years. She now trains and consults for a variety of organizations and governmental entities in the areas of elder abuse and domestic violence and has published articles and designed curricula on elder abuse and domestic violence for judges, law enforcement, protective services workers, medical personnel, and prosecutors. Ms. Heisler also teaches a course on ethics in an aging society at Virginia Tech and is responsible for creating the original National Adult Protective Services Association (NAPSA) Core Competency Module on "Working with the Criminal Justice System" and other online and in-person curricula on undue influence, working with the criminal justice system, and documentation. During her time with NAPSA, she joined the technical assistance team for the NAPSA Resource Center grant and in 2016, the organization granted her the 2016 NAPSA Collaboration Award. Later Ms. Heisler participated in an Office of Victim’s C funded grant on Polyvictimization in Later Life.

Ms. Heisler also shares her knowledge through written word. In addition to composing the chapter titled “Elder Abuse” in the book Victims of Crime, she coauthored Elder Abuse Detection and Intervention: A Multidisciplinary Approach and both coauthored and edited the Ethics and Vulnerable Adults.

Wednesday, May 31, 2023


Session 1:  How Investigative Specialists and Social Workers Avoid Bringing Bed Bug Infestations to Their Cars, Homes and Offices

Karen Vail, Professor and Extension Urban Entomologist, University of Tennessee, Knoxville

Investigative specialists and social workers are concerned about bed bugs feeding on their clients and bringing bed bugs from their clients’ infested homes to their cars, offices and homes. In this session, attendees will learn to recognize all stages of the bed bug, their shed skins and fecal specking. Bed bug biology, bite response and inability to transmit human pathogens will be discussed. Bed bugs are managed through proper identification, education, inspections and monitoring, non-chemical control (heat, cold, vacuuming and other mechanical removal such as lint rolling, and encasing mattresses and box springs), chemical control and follow-up evaluations. Following this session, attendees will understand how to implement these strategies to help their clients and prevent bringing bed bugs home.

Learning Materials:

Session 2:  Undue Influence:  Building a Compelling Case

Candace Heisler, J.D., Heisler and Associates

Undue influence is a pattern of manipulative behaviors that result in a perpetrator getting a victim to do what the exploiter wants, even if it is contrary to the victim’s previous beliefs and wishes. The tactics are employed to exploit the trust, dependency and fear of another in order to deceptively gain decision making control of the victim and may be a method to commit a crime. Undue influence most often is used in financial abuse cases and can be criminal conduct. Sadly, it is often assumed to be civil in nature allowing perpetrators to continue to exploit vulnerable victims.

Candace Heisler will define undue influence, discuss what makes victims vulnerable to it, describe offender tactics, suggest investigative approaches, and highlight ways to hold offenders accountable and protect victims. It will provide insights into undue influence for APS, law enforcement, prosecutors, and other professionals.

Learning Materials:

Thursday, June 1, 2023


Session 3:  Multiple Lenses of Investigations

Kathy Cherry, RN, MSN, SANE, APS Registered Nurse Specialist, Raymond Romano, MPH, MSN, PhD, Family Nurse Practitioner at Vanderbilt Memory and Alzheimer’s Center and Candace Heisler, JD

APS responses are intended to substantiate allegations of abuse, neglect and financial exploitation of vulnerable adults and provide services to mitigate risk and harm. To meet these goals APS relies on relationships with and the expertise of professionals from a variety of disciplines, including health care and civil and criminal justice. Part 1 of the session will draw on the expertise of the presenters who have backgrounds in investigations, clinical practice, health care and criminal law, to describe the different lens each presenter brings to an APS investigation and how each approach can benefit an APS client. In Part 2, the presenters will describe how to distinguish conditions resulting from abuse from other causation.

Learning Materials:

Session 4:  Balancing Empathy and Self-Care:  Understanding and Managing Vicarious Trauma and Compassion Fatigue

Taryn Hughes, Compassion Fatigue Therapist and Founder Forest Hughes & Associates

This interactive session will offer foundational knowledge about Vicarious Trauma and Compassion Fatigue, while providing tools and resources to reduce the impact of on-going trauma exposure in helping and protecting professionals. Behind each title, diploma, and certification, lies a human being who often witnesses more human suffering in one week than most people will witness in a lifetime. Today is about caring for you as a person and building skills that will help protect your physical and mental health on the job. 

More information coming soon.

Amy Vien_web

Amy Vien | APS Program Manager

Sherry Hall_web

Sherry Hall | APS Administrative Services Assistant 5

Patti Tosti_Web

Patti Tosti, MBA, PMP | APS Director of Interagency Collaboration and Research

Rhonda Barnes_web

Rhonda Barnes | APS Intake and Grants Director

Cara Robinson_web

Cara Robinson | Ph.D., TSU Department Chair - Social Work and Urban Studies

Linda Robare_web

Linda Robare | TSU Administrative Assistant III, Department of Social Work and Urban Studies