JOHNSON CITY — One in 10 elderly and disabled adults in Tennessee was the victims of abuse, neglect or exploitation last year. And for every case that is prosecuted, another 23 cases, on average, will go unreported. In honor of National Elder Abuse Awareness Month, the First Tennessee Area Agency on Aging and Disability is promoting a better understanding of abuse and neglect of older adults.

“Many of these citizens are dependent on others for their care and this makes them susceptible to abusive or neglectful treatment,” Kathy Whitaker, director of the First Tennessee Area Agency on Aging and Disability, said. “Most cases involve neglect, usually self-neglect. The person may live in unsanitary conditions or without heat or running water, and some individuals need assistance with meals and other activities of daily living.”

Whitaker said that the Adult Protective Services organization oversees investigations across the state involving suspected abuse, neglect or exploitation of adults. Caseworkers for APS try to arrange services to reduce or eliminate the abusive or neglectful situation. Competent clients have the right to refuse services, but caseworkers can seek a court order to protect personal health and safety of citizens who are in danger or unable to consent to being helped.

If an individual needs assistance with daily activities or meals, FTAAAD can screen them for programs that provide these services.

Tennessee is a mandatory reporting state, so if you suspect elder abuse, call the APS hotline at 1-888-277-8366. You don’t have to be certain that a situation is abusive or neglectful. APS will look into it and make that determination. Good faith reports are exempt from liability and are kept confidential.

If you feel that you or a family member is in physical danger, contact your local authorities or 911 right away. If you suspect abuse, but do not feel there is an immediate risk, call Adult Protective Services (APS) at 1-888-277-8366. Reports may be made anonymously.

The agency’s mission is to improve the quality of life for older adults and adults with disabilities who live in the eight counties of Northeast Tennessee by advocating, setting policy, identifying local needs, providing services, coordinating resources, and providing information to promote a continuum of care which supports independence, choice, and empowerment for those it is committed to serve.

For more information, call 423-928-3258 or visit www.ftaaad.org.