How to spot signs of and report elder abuse

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A FOX13 report about allegations of abuse and neglect at a Memphis rehabilitation center and nursing home continues to turn up more claims.

The number of responses our newsroom has gotten is shining a light on elder abuse and how often it can happen.

ORIGINAL REPORT: Memphis nursing home under investigation for allegations of elder abuse

Chassity Taylor, the elder care coordinator for the Family Safety Center in Memphis, estimates only one in 10 cases of elder abuse ever get reported.

“Unfortunately, it’s one of those types of abuse that goes unreported,” she said.

Elder abuse often goes on behind closed doors. That’s why Taylor is working to bring it into the light.

“Elder abuse is willful harm to a senior that involves anything as far as physical abuse, emotional abuse, financial as well as sexual abuse,” she said.

RELATED: More Mid-South families come forward with allegations against Memphis nursing home

If you have a loved one in a nursing home or another caretaker, Taylor said it’s important to be aware of the warning signs of abuse.

“Pay attention to any kind of major weight loss that may occur. You can also look to see if there’s bruises, any broken bones and if you get reports of unknown falls and no one knows how it happened,” she said.

If your loved one suddenly seems withdrawn or distant, Taylor said that can also be an indicator something is wrong.

But the pandemic may make these signs harder to spot.

“There’s more isolation, so it’s less likely they’re going to have that interaction so you’re not going to notice things like you would have prior to the pandemic,” Melanie Keller, the president of Meritan, which provides senior care in Memphis said.

Even if you can’t visit your loved one in person, Keller said nursing homes should have a policy in place where you can visit by video chat.

She said you also should check to see if a facility is licensed.

“Licensed means they are running background checks on people and the department of health is coming in and has some oversight,” Keller said.

If you suspect any form of abuse may be going on inside a nursing home, both women said to err on the side of caution and report it.

“You could be saving someone’s life,” Taylor said. “You could definitely be preventing future harm.”

There are several ways you can report suspected elder abuse in Tennessee, by phone or online through adult protective services or the Tennessee Department of Health.

You can call Adult Protective Services at 888-APS-TENN (888-277-8366).

The Tennessee Healthcare Facilities complaint line is 877-287-0010

The Tennessee Long Term Care Ombudsman number: 877-236-0013

The Family Safety Center and Meritan in Memphis can also help you.

You can reach Mertian at (901) 766-0600 and the Family Safety Center at (901) 222-4400.

In response to FOX13′s investigation and at our request for a statement, Signature HealthCARE, the company we have been reporting on, sent us the following comment.

Signature HealthCARE’s top priority is our residents health and well-being. Accordingly, we take the hiring and training of our staff very seriously – from the moment they walk in the door, and continually throughout their career with us. We also:

· Conduct background checks on all staff hires, as well as check them against any elder abuse charges in the national database

· Provide resident care and abuse education on an ongoing basis

· Have a 24/7 call line available for families to inquire about their loved ones care – at any time, day or night

· Make the Ombudsman/State information available to anyone to report concerns to have an external agency investigate

Our Signature HealthCARE of Primacy facility has met and continues to meet all state and federal requirements for nursing homes. In fact, Signature HealthCARE of Primacy’s score is among the top in the industry and the facility has a 3 star CMS rating and a 4 star Google rating.

We strongly encourage all of our families to contact us, at any time, with concerns they have. As mentioned above, our 24/7 call line, called the CAREline, is available to all our families from the beginning. Unfortunately, FOX 13 is reporting on families who chose to use the media, instead of continuing the lines of communication with us, which we hold as a priority in the care and relationship with our residents and families. We hope they will call and talk to us – we’d welcome the opportunity to listen.