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

June 14, 2018 • By

Last Updated: June 14, 2018

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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  1. Alfred F.

    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!

  2. Alfred F.

    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

  3. Barbara F.

    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.

  4. adrianna b.

    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 .

  5. adrianna b.

    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.

  6. Laine T.

    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 ?

    • Ray F.

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

  7. Joanne D.

    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!

  8. Eriberto S.

    Thank you much for caring for the elders.

    • Ray F.

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

  9. Elizabeth M.

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

  10. tony

    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.

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