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.


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


  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

    • 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.
    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.

  24. 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 .

  25. 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.

  26. 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!

  27. 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!

  28. With few government safeguards, sometimes the only help available for victims of such practices are lawyers who focus on financial fraud and investment loss recovery, especially at the hands of financial advisors, brokers, and broker dealers. My colleagues and I have our hands full, and some of the stories we hear are truly tragic. The elderly and disabled are particularly vulnerable. Always get a second and third opinion before making any large financial decision. Always take documents home and review all documents carefully before signing anything. If an investment does not perform as promised, act immediately and do not wait for it to rebound as a financial advisor may tell you. For more information about options for victims, contact an experienced attorney who may advise you of your rights and options. For more information, about elder financial fraud, contact me or review information on my website.

  29. 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.

  30. Mark Harmon in Valdosta Georgia is keeping my cancer riddled daughter from her friends and family He has moved her from her home to a place out in the country and will not allow any one that LOVES HER access The address he has her is 5507 Carter Dr. Hahira ,Georga 31632.My daughters name is Dawn Harmon. He has taken her phone away from her His sister is supposed to be taking of her ,but despite how hungry my daughter gets , cindy will only feed Dawn when cindy feels like it . Mark , when he found out Dawn was dying took out a 2 Million dollar Insurance policy on Dawn without her knowing about it.

  31. I just wanted to say thank you Lance Robertson for bringing this issue to light. We all need to remember these people for one are still people. They are all our grandmother’s and grandfather’s. And without them bringing our parents into this world, we wouldn’t exist either. At this time of there lives for some, there ability to care for themselves already can be a challenge. In addition to that when safety is another thing to add to there lives if makes things even more complicated. I’m also a supporter of the safety for the elderly. In a video can be found here: will give a visual of some of the torture elderly have to deal with even at places we least expect safety would be a concern. I too believe “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”. Not just the elderly but everyone.

  32. The help does not come once you leave. Your left to fend for yourself. Owner of property since 1975. Married 15 years. Spouse talked me into adding his name and making all joint property, bank accounts, stocks, and my vehicle. I had no mortgages and no loans. I had my home all updated and a new garage just built. He tore the inside of the house up. Walls, floors, ceiling and woodwork. I was told what I could and not eat, when to speak not speak. He would purposely walk into me twist my arm, degrade me in front of people. I could not leave without him being along. He accompanied me to medical appointments. I became extremely ill and had to quit to the point I could no longer work. I had to use a cane, slept 20 hrs a day and pain was horrid. It took 4 years to get disability. To shorten this I found my spouse had way over $100,000 in 2013 and while visiting my daughter I received a call from his Personal Broker by accident? I was informed my spouse had moved all the stocks into his Private account. I filed for divorce a few months later. I found spouse had place 3 mortgages on property. My attorney did nothing, no subpoenas, affidavits, my medical records, basically threw me under the bus. I received what I knew he had about 17%. He received all the rest. Unknown is his true worth. A new attorney cannot undo the damage and judge denied motion of hardship. His income per month $5,100, mine $1,300. I cannot find a legal malpractice attorney. Unless I need a different type. I feel I have no hope. Chronic medical conditions are worse and will continue to do so.

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  34. Fred Hutchings 3/9/19
    27 Congress St.
    Fitchburg, MA 01420

    To Whom It May Concern,


    I have written to government agencies and have either not heard back, or, been told that there is nothing they could do. I am very much at a loss as what to do. Please inform.
    My name is Frederick Hutchings. I am a 67-year-old stage 4 cancer patient at Mass. General Hospital under the care of Dr. Andrew Yee., totally disabled, with severe spinal damage caused by the cancer. This very, very much concerns the rights and safety of the elderly and disabled. This involves thousands of people in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The failure to respond to such concerns leaves in place a very serious condition in our society. It leaves it unchecked. It leaves many of the elderly and disabled in great danger.
    This concerns a former roommate of mine, Christopher Cattel, Jr., about age 40. He was my roommate sense about November, 25, 2018. He suffers from severe mental illness which creates erratic aggressive behavior. I although he is no longer my roommate, he wreaked havoc in my life stole over $400 and cost me hundreds more. I was told that he currently has, or had, two restraining orders against him.
    I blame the Mass. Department of Mental Health for this crisis more than him. He is one person. The MDMH is a large government beau acracy in trusted by the public with the care of thousands of people in his situation. Recently, it has come to my attention that the Mass. Department of Mental Health denies all responsibility and misconduct at the placing of Christopher Cattel, Jr., in my home.
    This letter asserts that the Mass. Department of Mental Health knew that Mr. Cattel was extremely mentally ill and a danger to both himself and others at the time he moved into 27 Congress St. Fitchburg, MA 01420. They knew that Mr. Cattel had a long history of Mental Illness and dangerous behavior and you deliberately and maliciously covered these facts up and failed to disclose these facts to the other residents of Congress St. This Material Misrepresentation significantly put in danger the other residents of Congress St. they were present at Mr. Cattel’s initial appointment for the house and did not disclose his serious mental illness. They knew that such a disclosure would prevent Mr. Cattel from moving into Congress St. They knew that this would put the other roommates in great danger and they deliberately covered these facts up.
    I have been in constant contact with Ms. Storie and Cafarella of the Fitchburg, MA office of the Mass. Dept. of Mental Health with constant updates of the increasing violent and dangerous behavior of Mr. Cattel and they continue to do nothing about my requests.
    Several times in the past, Mrs. Kouchar, Mr. Cattel’s mother reported that she was very worried that escalating violence in this situation could be very dangerous for everyone, including Chris. She would like to see Christopher removed from this environment for his own safety. He is not making good decisions and does not seem capable of taking care of himself right now. She asked me to call you. She told me that she thinks he needs to be committed. She will go to court to try to do this, if you will go with her.
    This proves that the Mass. Department of Mental Health knew that Mr. Cattel past and ongoing behavior imposed a danger to himself and others and actively covered it up.
    Society owes a special duty to the elderly and disabled. To ignore this duty makes all of us unsafe.
    Thank You for your attention to this matter.


    Frederick W. Hutchings

  35. Hello, I need advice my grandma is paralyze on her left side of her body. My aunt who has been her care giver and Power of Attorney for 3 yares now. She is trying to abandon my grandma out here in Maryland and take my grandda and his retirementcheck and move to Mississippi which is a milloin miles away from DC. She gives them alcohol while knowing that they take medication. They are afraid to talk because she has cameras looking and listening on them in the privacy of their home. She doesnt always make sure they eat and she diesnt change my grandma very often. What am I suppose to do!?

  36. My husband used sexual abuse on me and I believe this contributed to a condition which caused me to have Tumors in my Uterus. I had to have surgery as a result. The Dr’s told me it was very abnormal for a woman my age to have 66 years old. My husband has used mental, and emotional abuse also. I became afraid for my life and moved. I need help for medical costs.

  37. My Mother is a victim of elderly financial exploitation and the NC laws do not protect her because abuse of power of attorney is not recognized. My 96 year-old Mother has lost her home and all her money because my older sister used the POA as a license to steal and has gotten away with it because the NC Statutes protect her. The laws need to be changed to fully protect the elderly . I’m not even allowed to talk to the District Attorney in our area about it. Adult Protective Services were no help – they said it was no longer ongoing so they wouldn’t report it to law enforcement. It’s no longer going on because there’s no more to take from my Mother. Law Enforcement said they could do nothing because my sister had power of attorney.

  38. I libe in a 55+ mobile hiome park in Apple Valley California, . The manager here is the primary care giver for 3-4 old ladies in this park.. The manager is manufactoring canna butter and distributing it out to alot of the elderly ladies here in the park
    I’m not sure if she selling it to them or just gibing it away. This seems to me to be eldery abuse. As I beliebe several of the ladies have no idea what there being given

  39. It’s really quite simple, homelessness, please address this serious issue Nationally

    Especially if you believe in your opening salutation…good day

  40. I am staying with an elderly man that has been physically and financially exploited by his grown grandkids and now they are physically attacking me and I am a neck breather help they crawl in and out the back window when locked out do drugs never contribute to household supplies or upkeep help

  41. What can I do if it’s the Social Security Administration that is effectively abusing/neglecting a disabled elderly person?

  42. I appreciate the resources you have provided here on the website, I want to talk briefly about the abusive conduct of Individuals in several government agencies toward me that spans a decade. At age 60, I’m still fighting wrongs that happen long ago. Here is the thing, I don’t have to tell you that once you’ve experienced this abuse, and the perpetrators succeed the first time without getting into trouble, they will continue their abuse and the victim is noted as “fair game “.
    Over the years I thought about visiting Lansing and finding someone to tell my story too, but haven’t a made the trip. But after this last stunt that Social Security and DHS has pulled, I am planning to go.

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