Five Ways to Fight Elder Abuse, Neglect, and Financial Exploitation

Lance Robertson HHS Studio shot

As Americans, we believe that people of all ages and abilities deserve to be treated fairly and equally and to live free from abuse, neglect, or financial exploitation. Tomorrow, on World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, we join the world in recognizing the importance of elders to our communities and standing up for their rights. Here are five ways you can join this fight.

1. Break Down Isolation

We cannot talk about elder abuse without talking about social isolation. Elders without strong social networks face a greater risk of abuse, neglect, or exploitation. It is up to all of us to ensure that our communities are supporting and engaging older adults. One simple way to do this is by staying in touch with the older adults in your community. So go ahead and knock on your neighbor’s door just to say “hi” or start an intergenerational book club or movie night. You can also support community efforts to empower elders and fight isolation; act by volunteering to deliver meals or serve as a long-term care ombudsman.

2. Learn to Spot “Red Flags”

There are a number of “red flags” that could suggest the presence of elder abuse. Examples include:

  • Isolation (especially by a caregiver);
  • Unpaid bills or utilities that have been turned off;
  • Unusual or quick changes in a will or other financial documents;
  • Missing medications; and
  • Bruises or welts (especially on the face).

Even if you are not certain abuse is taking place, you can report any suspicions of abuse so a professional can investigate.

3. Connect With Resources in Your Community

There are a variety of local resources in your community that help address elder abuse and social isolation. Adult Protective Services agencies investigate, and can respond to, suspected abuse. Long-Term Care Ombudsman programs advocate for residents of care facilities. Area Agency on Aging and Aging and Disability Resource Centers can offer meals, health and wellness programs, and caregiver support programs, and Older Americans Act Legal Services Providers can offer legal help. The Eldercare Locator (800-677-1116) can connect you to all of these programs.

4. Watch Out for Scams and Fraud

Whether it is a foreign prince or a mystery caller with an exclusive “investment opportunity,” scammers steal billions of dollars from seniors every year. Here are a few tips to help you protect yourself:

  • Sign up for the Do Not Call Registry online or call 888-382-1222 to reduce telemarketing calls.
  • If you suspect Social Security fraud, report it online or call 800-269-0271.
  • Never give your credit card, banking, Social Security, Medicare, or other personal information over the phone unless you initiated the call.
  • Check with a lawyer or trusted family member before signing any document you do not completely understand.

5. Talk About It

Many older adults who face abuse, neglect, or exploitation feel guilty or ashamed about their experience. One study found that for every reported case of elder abuse, 23 cases go unreported. We must become more comfortable talking about abuse in a way that makes clear that everyone, no matter what their age, is worthy of dignity and respect. Victims should never feel embarrassed or feel that they are responsible for the abuse they experienced.

The abuse, neglect, and exploitation of older adults goes against everything we stand for as a country. Tomorrow, as we recognize World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, and throughout the year, let’s take a stand for justice. You can find more resources at the National Center on Elder Abuse, an Administration for Community Living resource center.

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49 thoughts on “Five Ways to Fight Elder Abuse, Neglect, and Financial Exploitation

  1. I LIVE IN SPAIN AND MY FATHER IS VERY ILL, HE LIVES IN FLORIDA, ORMOND BEACH AND THE PROPERTY IS UNDER HIS NAME AND MINE. HE AS ABANDONED THE HOUSE AND I HVE NO MORE CONTACT WITH HIM. WHAT CAN I DO ??????, PLEASE HELP ME

  2. I feel like I was taken advantage of by Wells Fargo Mortgage company in 2008 via refinancing. I was 64 years old at the time. Can you refer me to an agency who can help pro bono or will consider taking my case on contingency. Reaching out. Web site was most helpful.

  3. I need a replacement SS card. I must have lost my card. Please send me instructions to apply for a replacement card.

    Fred Lum

    • Hello Fred, we prefer a government issued document with your picture, as proof of identity to replace your Social Security card. If you do not have one or you cannot get one within a reasonable amount of time, we may be able to use other documents such as:
      •Employee identification card;
      •School identification card;
      •Health insurance card; or
      •U.S. military identification card.
      Any document you submit, must be an original or certified copy, current (not expired) and show your name, and other identifying information (date of birth or age).
      Also, realize that you may not need a replacement card. You will rarely need to show it. Knowing your Social Security number is what is important.
      To see if you’re eligible to apply for a replacement Social Security card online or to learn more on the process and what documents you will need to get a card, please visit our “Social Security Number and Card” web page. We hope this helps!

  4. My sister is still trying to put her life back together after horrible elder abuse where nearly a dozen people -from caregivers to doctors – reported the abuse but authorities dropped the ball repeatedly. She was 60, 93 lbs & 5′ tall; physically disabled & mentally challenged. Her daily caregiver had quit & the agency was struggling to get her someone every day while trying to find another permanent caregiver. She’d been selling stuff online to downsize & someone came to look at something. They brought a “cousin” w/them, 36, 280 lbs, & when they left, he came back to “chat.” It was rather late, 9pm or so, she remembers this but not why he returned nor why shwblet him in (she’s not all there) he remembers nothing more than him coming in & sitting down, telling jokes, then awakening to being raped on the floor. He’d beaten her & stolen her medications & phone, & all the $ she’d been saving for bills. When she woke again it was morning & he was asleep in her bed. He became violent when she woke him trying to run him out, hitting her again & throwing things so she locked herself in the bathroom. He told her through the door he w

  5. I live in a hud subsidized rental the management allows the other residents to harassment me abuse and stalk me whenever I leave my apartment. Every time someone gets evicted the residences blame me for it and then I’m treated terrible the assistant manager is best friends with residences. Very unprofessional they have meetings and do not include me, I am very isolated

    • I was in a situation like you ! I was kind and giving, helped, provided transport for some who needed help, etc…long story. The stress of that place made me ill. After 2 years, they caught the manager stealing money and meds. The next manager was on drugs, thankfully, she was caught, too. After my son arranged to move me to his state and home, they got a very good manager. She is wonderful, a degree in Psychology. She went through all the records and found that the former managers signed our names to things we never saw.
      I hope your life improves..

  6. My 60 year old physicality and mentally disabled sister was beaten & raped by a 35 year old drifter who needed a place to stay. Because she locked herself in the bathroom after the initial attack, he called tjenpolice & told them some cockamamie story about how he lived there & she was some desperate old woman who thought he was her “boyfriend,” & that she’d taken his money. Incredibly, they came & demanded she come out & threatened to arrest HER for domestic violence. They didn’t believe her that she was a victim. For over 2 months this monster ate her food, lived in her apartment, stole her medications, cash she kept hidden & refused to leave. Doctors, caregivers, therapists alike called the police, who always came out but told her they couldn’t remove him from “his” residence. They didn’t believe her at all rhat he didnt live there. One night she texted her therapist she was going to commit suicide because she couldn’t take the abuse & insanity any longer. Finally one kind cop of the 3 who showed up talked the guy who was a horrible drug addict & alcoholic & was falling down drunk to go with them to rehab. He told my sister privately about a court form she could use to file an “eviction” so he couldn’t come back. This creep told the cops my sister was a drug dealer, selling her medications & the female cop almost took her in too. I found out when a few months later she attempted suicide, having suffered irreparable physical injury from the initial brutal assault. My sister has no $$, couldn’t afford a lawyer but too much income (SSDI) for legal aid, no friends or relatives, completely isolated. I’ve got no $to help her with, I’m also on SSDI & out mother is destitute on Social Security as well so we couldn’t have done anything from here, either. What’s up with these cops if even doctors reporting horrible elder abuse like this are ignored? My sister will never recover physically, emotionally, financially, & she’s terrified to call 911 in emergencies now as she’s scared there’s a record of her being a crazy old woman & no one will believe her. She’s terrified of cops, believing they’ll arrest HER or won’t help her if she’s ever in trouble. What’s the point?

  7. When does the new law for representative payee take effect? Is it true that parents and spouses living together in the same household do not have to do the annual accounting any longer.

  8. In my opinion; one passived abuse is one of a son or daughter who turn their backs to elderly parents. There should be a law enforcement to that matter

  9. Check the Elder Abuse in the nursing homes. I had to hire a private nurse to be with my husband when I could not be there. The Administrations of these homes turn a deaf ear when a complaint is lodged.

  10. Elder abuse happens with professionals, family members, neighbors, caregivers and volunteers, and even strangers.
    What missing is harsh penalties for the abuses and more education. I think sometimes people may not understand what they are doing is wrong. We need more education.

  11. Thanks so VERY much for this particular update. I live in a senior complex and in spite of the activities, loneliness is still one of the biggest problems. Families today are too busy with their own lives to be with their elder parents who raised them, so there’s much sorrow.

  12. Hi! I was a victim! Fraud. Hacked in my checking and put his name on my account! Stole. All my. Household items. Jewelry. Diabetic shoes he was a computer wiz! He killed my dog. All together! $6800 I lost plus .he is in jail. But on going case. Iam a senior 76 yrs old he was 30? Wanted in other states! Seniors be ware.

  13. This was a very informative article about elder abuse and provides some good info. to help us. I really appreciate this mail from Social Security and writers like Lance Robertson. There are other articles that I am anxious to read. I am experiencing a problem now because I was scammed by a repair man.
    I shared this on Facebook because many don’t get email like this, also younger friends with parents need to read it.

  14. I’m in a wheelchair and I was abused at Union Rescue Mission they sold all my money my ID and everything in the staff woke me up at 3 in the morning what I had to be Caesar my leg and they tried to fight me and I’m in a wheelchair

  15. Where to report ” Non Physical Abuse ” for Senior Citizen in Santa Clara County, California?
    How the law helps to prove a ” Non Physical Abuse ” ?
    Can you provide more information about ” Non Physical Abuse “

  16. I was personally ripped off by a local realtor. I have not been able to get her charged and do not know how to proceed. I cannot afford a lawyer.

  17. My sister is my mom’s payee and has allow my druggie sister to live in my mom’s house and knows she is being abuse in so many ways .and doesn’t kick my sister out what can I do about this

  18. I need legal représentation
    I have been scammed and need to file bankruptcy.
    I cannot afford to an attorney any more . i need help

  19. When will the SSA stop exploiting people on Social Security and SSDI. The representative payee program is for SSI, 42 U.S. Code § 1383. It is not for people on Social Security and SSDI. When the person on Social Security and SSDI dies, the representative payee has to return thousands of dollars back to the SSA and their family only gets $255 death benefits back. The SSA needs to stop exploiting the elderly and disabled.

  20. If you suspect abuse, it takes months to have someone
    verify the facts, They need more social workers in this
    field.

    • Thank you, Eriberto! Your thoughts are important to us and we’re pleased when feedback is positive.

  21. Very good article! I just seldom answer the phone,unless it is one of my contacts.
    I had 2 CALLS SAYING I WAS GOING TO JAIL !
    My husband has dementia, his own family member took him to an ATM and stole $300. So the court made me his guardian.
    This has been a rough road. Visit your loved ones,keep them SAFE!

  22. My rep payee embezzled over $50,000 over about eight years because he would never show me any documentation because he would not show me bank statements and the bank refused to talk to me about it. Over 10 years he probably got $100,000 because he also had access to my military pension. NOBODY WOULD TALK TO ME ABOUT IT, and since he never responded to APS I don’t know how I will ever get that money back. As soon as he was told he would no longer have access to my money he completely refused to talk to me whatsoever. How can I get help to get that money and have him charged with embezzlement ?

    • Hi Laine. Social Security takes reports of fraud very seriously. If you suspect Social Security FRAUD, report it. Thanks !

  23. Those of us (elders) who are living in apartments and are being harassed by those young people living above us. How can this be stopped. Management will do nothing to help us. Most of us cannot afford to move. I am 76 and a war widow .

  24. i am a certified volunteer ombudsman and I take this very seriously. I want to stay informed on what and how to look for problems.

  25. My children have sold the family house which I was living in in Baltimore, moved me to two rooms in his house in Torrance CA, and several months later gave me three days to be out.
    I moved back to Baltimore and my children are paying my rent and transportation.
    I am a retired Air Force LtCol and they have captured that and all the rest of my retirement incomes!
    I

  26. I have been convinced to sell my house, sell almost all of its contents, and move into two rooms in his house in Torrance California.
    A few months later he gave me three days to be comply moved out and I met his demand!

  27. I am 62 years old and have lived in a independent living facility been here for 8 years. I have been giving a 30 days to move out do to my grandson and his girl friend. I tried to ask them to stop coming around here. I couldn’t stop them, so the complex keep giving me infraction. Until finally I got a 30 day notice to move out. I am disabled with a couple mentally ill dicnosees. Is there anything that can help me stay where I’m at. I need to be out on the 25 of July. Please help me thank you for your time in this matter.

    • We are sorry to hear of your difficult situation, Patricia. You may be able to receive assistance from the state where you live. You can get information about services in your area from your state or local social services office. You can also visit the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) web page for more information.
      We hope this information helps.

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