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Attendee Takeaways from the Tennessee Elder Justice Conference

Financial scams targeting seniors have more than doubled since 2020. Researchers estimate that the average victim loses $120,000, but sadly since so many are unreported the actual average is likely significantly higher.

To help drive awareness and build like-minded relationships, the League and credit union professionals attended the Tennessee Elder Justice Conference last week in Knoxville. During the event, credit union attendees fostered relationships with attorneys, emergency responders, medical case managers and victim advocates while learning about how best to protect seniors and the most vulnerable in our community.

Here are a few conference takeaways from credit union attendees.

“I think what struck me the most was just how tied Adult Protection Services’ hands are with regard to what they can investigate. Attendees and APS workers both seemed frustrated by the recent legislative changes regarding the removal of allegations of self-neglect for investigation, but one legislative change about which I am happy is that allegations of exploitation involving non-governmental funds are now eligible for investigation. The conversations gave me a much better perspective on how APS operates and why situations are handled in certain ways.”

Jon Fernander, MBA, BSACS
BSA Analyst, Tennessee Valley Federal Credit Union

“I want to share that the state has a Long-Term Care Ombudsman. (Ombudsman means representative in Swedish.) This program provides assistance to elderly Tennesseans residing in nursing homes, homes for the aged, and assisted care living facilities. The Ombudsman is available to help residents and their families resolve questions or problems and will advocate for solutions to problems for qualified residents of long-term care facilities.

Also, the East Tennessee Human Resource Agency (ETHRA) has a Collaborative Response to Elder and Vulnerable Adult Abuse (CREVAA) Program that provides emergency services and coordination of services and supports for older and vulnerable adult victims of crime.

These are great resources as you help members navigate life transitions for their loved ones and to help members who may have become a victim of crime.  And as always, Tennessee is a mandatory-reporting state for credit union employees who suspect elder and vulnerable adult abuse. If you suspect abuse, report it here.

Kim Bohannon
Chief Innovation Officer, Tennessee Credit Union League

“Working in the credit union industry, we see the financial exploitation side of things, but not necessarily the physical abuse. In a breakout session, two assistant district attorneys shared how good communication between EMS, the local medical examiner, local hospital doctors, law enforcement and the District Attorney’s Office led to a conviction for a 2019 case.

They detailed what led to the murder of 72-year-old, Ms. Betty. She was supposed to be under the care of her niece and her niece’s husband. However, the two were taking her social security checks and neglecting her. The medical examiner found locks on the refrigerator door where Ms. Betty was denied food. Even after being in the hospital for two months, the impact of the neglect was irreversible and Ms. Betty died from the inhumane treatment by her family members—all so they could get her check.

Hearing the details of the case just further reminded me of the monsters who live amongst us who prey upon the elderly and the most vulnerable in our community.”

Jessica McCosh
Communications Specialist, Tennessee Credit Union League

What can you do?
Share information with members about how to avoid financial exploitation. Here are two great public service announcements to share. Be a Scam Stopper by Knox County District Attorney Charme Allen and Be a Scam Stopper by Congressman Tim Burchett who encourages viewers not to give one red cent to the dirtbag scammers.

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