Disability, Frauds & Scams

Teaming Up to Prevent Elder Abuse

June 13, 2016 • By

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Last Updated: August 19, 2021

elder abuse awarenessElder abuse is an epidemic. Unfortunately, statistics show that the number of older Americans physically, mentally and financially exploited is rising.

According to a study released by the American Journal of Public Health in 2010, approximately five million elderly Americans are victims of abuse. This exceeds the number of domestic violence and child abuse victims combined. Social Security beneficiaries are included in the millions who suffer sometimes physical, emotional, and financial abuse, as well as neglect of basic care and medical needs.

Statistics also indicate that most reported cases involve family members or people closely related to the victims. Many elder abuse victims suffer from decreased cognitive capacity, such as dementia, and are not able to protect themselves. Adult protective services operate under state law to investigate reports of elder abuse and to work with the victims to protect them and stop the maltreatment.

It is important that adult protective services agencies in every community have a close working relationship with Social Security to:

  • Remove abusive representative payees;
  • Prevent unsuitable representative payees from being put in place or being re-instated, and;
  • Appoint appropriate representative payees who will protect the victim’s benefits.

Social Security is with you through life’s journey. The agency takes this commitment seriously. Under Acting Commissioner Carolyn Colvin and Chief of Staff Stacy Rodgers, Social Security has made great strides in a short time to protect beneficiaries from financial exploitation and to coordinate with adult protective services agencies on behalf of our mutual clients. You can help too by visiting the Administration for Community Living and www.ncea.aoa.gov for more information on how you can be involved.

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About the Author

Kathleen M Quinn, Executive Director, National Adult Protective Services Association (NAPSA)

Kathleen M Quinn, Executive Director, National Adult Protective Services Association (NAPSA)


  1. Sheridan L.

    I am a 90 year old World War II Marine Corps vet & cancer survivor. I live alone in low rent housing. Many of the tenants are mentally unstable. I person below me is obviously psychotic. He has been harassing continually since I moved in a year ago. It began the day I moved in this big 62 year old came & shouted at the movers pushing them about and causing them to drop a heavy box of book. Since then he pounds on my door several times a night in the wee house of the morning when I am sound asleep having taken medications for insomnia. He accuses me of making noise. He has called the cops seven times & not seeming very bright take his side.they take his side.
    May 28th he again pounded on my door at 1 a.m. then phoned the cops and said I’d threatened him with a knife. I had not. Three police rang my door bell the following day in a combat mode with their hands on their tazers. If I’d been feeble minded as many my age are, the John Wayne cowboys would have surely shot me in the chest, killing me. Not wanting them to loiter out side and frighten my neighbors who are mostly mentally unstable I asked them in. As the officer in charge edged me into a corner of the living room, his colleagues began rummaging about. I told them that they had no search warrant and were violating me civil liberties. Then the officer brought in two social psychologist. They started asking me inane questions such what day of the week was it and what was my name and such. They treated me as though I were an imbecile. That night my chest began palpitating and believing I was having a stroke, I took a taxi to a hospital emergency and was kept there from 3 a.m. until 10:30 a.m. running a series of tests. The doctor informed me that my heart seemed okay , but I’d had a very bad fright. I am being stonewalled at the police station. After going there there three times they finally gave me my police reports which the police officer had blacked out the most useful information. The lawyer at legal aid won’t help me get a restraining order. She did phone the apartment complex and the manager told her that she offered to move the culprit and he refused. That exonerates me. A social worker spoke with the culprit the other day and he said he was in conflict with the tenant next to him. I want my police report uncensored so I can press charges against the culprit and the police. My blood pressure is unnaturally high, 178/101. I should charge attempted involuntary manslaughter.

  2. Deborah A.

    One problem is that the politicians who having been career politicians because lack of laws to regulate how many terms they can run for is not limited. They have become experts in the art of running as a figure of public issues. Just posting thousands of slogans all over there district and a person who votes in there district only during Presidential elections when other candidates with in the district running for office people are not as informed and usually remember names on posters that ring a bell. This being the strategy of placing there picture and name in bold view for easy subconscious readable posters. And when voting the most and best looking colors actually set off a alarm while in voting booth among names. Psychology classes teach this in ad advertising. One thing that would help is putting term limits for all federal, state and local positions just like the President. It would put pressure on the local District elections for candidates to have to have town debates and getting the candidates out to let people get to know them and what they stand for. And spend less time in Washington D.C. doing nothing but padding there pockets by lobbyist on what ear mark to vote for.

  3. Donna W.

    I recently got a call from someone posing to be the Medicare Help Center. They started to go in to the spiel of something & when I asked them how come they didn’t know which member of our house was on Medicare, they hung up on me. Hmmmmm…. It was a local call too.

    • Marni

      scott church did WONDERS for PT8. he actually knew what end-users wants, he listened with open ears. avid decided to hire a bunch of non-industry suits to take over powerful management positions, and their no-kmsic-unowing bafoonery is starting to show whats up.

  4. Barbara V.

    This article should be required reading for the Social Security Office in St.Petersburg, FL.In spite of their assurance that my elderly brother’s embezzled monies would be returned, and that the representative payee at
    his former ALF in Houston TX would be removed from his direct deposit bank account, they have not done so, and the clerk who handled this transaction in FL, where my brother now resides, cannot be reached by phone. Time to travel there- AGAIN- and to find a supervisor who WILL ACTUALLY DO SOMETHING to restore my brother’s desperately needed funds.

  5. Judy

    One of the biggest financial abuses of the elderly are relatives asking them for money. A very elderly person can not say no, they fear loss of affection. This is very common and should be discussed a lot more often.

    • Elcho

      You hit it right on Madam, I have a daughter just like it, due to that I can’t see my grand children for many yrs.
      God bless her.

  6. Private p.

    The biggest problem is stemming from SSA!!! Benefits are being taken away from them and therefore creating financial, emotional and neglect due to no outlets! These people who really have multiple disability’s can’t work…… Fix this and half the problem of senior and elderly ABUSE STOPS!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Lannie

      I had to read the comment twice.
      What is the problem with your thinking? Because you feel that you are entitled to your family members
      money, because yours is getting cut back? So that is why you abuse a family member. This is a situation that the goverment needs to address now .protect the elder . Lannie Eynn

  7. Dennis M.

    The United States Government is guilty of “ELDER ABUSE”…..They steal from OUR Social Security, that WE paid into; then they don’t even have the decency to give us a C.O.L.A. It’s disgusting !!! We work all our lives and contribute to Soc. Sec. only to have our government steal our savings. They need to pay back the trillions of dollars they STOLE from us, so that S.S. will be solvent once again. Some of us depend on that to survive. The cost of living goes up 10% and we get a measly 1.4 % increase. That is WHEN we get one. They said the cost of living didn’t go up in 2015. That is a bunch of crap. They said fuel prices are down. ANOTHER bunch of crap. Fuel isn’t the only cost of living. They obviously don’t go to the grocery store or have their vehicles repaired or pay rent. If they do, they use OUR money and that is why Soc. Sec. is rapidly becoming insolvent. SHAME on the U.S. Government.

    • Tom

      Unfortunately, this post is all too typical of well-founded unhappiness. When you see “the government” as a single entity, you are actually contributing to the problem not getting fixed. The agency has to do what Congress and the courts order, along with any initiatives ordered by the executive branch. Congress determines what measurements are used in a COLA. One party is looking to use an even more restrictive set of measurements which would normally make it worse. In addition, Congress has used the SSA surpluses to disguise higher deficits and now must pay back the trust funds. And yet, because people complain without critical thinking about “the government” they keep electing the same people (or ones who want to cut these programs) into Congress. You have the right to complain or you have the right to fix the problem. If you choose to complain and dismiss the government, nothing will get fixed and you will get even more practice complaining. Write your Congressman and Senator. Organize around issues important to you and speak with many voices rather than one. Do your own thinking and stop allowing yourself to be manipulated by anger into supporting people who do NOT have your interests at heart.

    • Elcho

      Its not the American Govt., is the guy WHO is in charge for the last 7 yrs.
      But if it wasn’t for the constitution, he’ll run again & the stupid american public will vote for his nonsense post………….
      Have a good day.

  8. Kenneth K.

    I am trapped in a seemingly endless trap with Bank Of America. True I have initiated overdraft charges by writing checks before the money is in there, or by having automatic withdrawals take place when I don’t have enough funds. But the $35 fee for even being a couple $’s over, and then additional fees when it is over a week etc. are just overwheliming. I have bad credit and cannot go to another bank. I have had fees over $200 – $300 the past two months, and they are unwilling to work with me. What can I do?

    • Dennis M.

      Bank of America is NOTORIOUS for doing that. They got me like that years ago, by adding fee on top of fee. If you are struggling to pay them, in the first place, hose can you pay MORE to catch up? It doesn’t make sense. I will have NOTHING TO DO with Bank of America.

      • Paul W.

        B of A is notorious of that. Computers don’t make mistakes.

    • Silvia T.

      The only banks that are safer in this planet nowadays are the international banks. Try Citibank or any other that is international. The national banks are having a lot of problems all over the world and are technically far behind on schedule with the international entities.

    • Bruce M.

      Find a local credit union. B of A exists to make profits for share holders and will find creative ways to separate you from your money. A credit union is owned by and serves its members.

      • TLD

        Ditto on using a credit union. I’ve used the same credit union in our town for years. They are more willing to waive fees as well.

    • kevin n.

      file chapter 13 bankrupty the court will set a small payment plan

  9. Rebeca A.

    Hello, I want to know how does a family member can find out if an elderly relative or friend is being abused in an elderly care center, especially one that is designed to care for elderly patients suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease or/and other forms of dementia? My sister now has to live in a residential memory care center, but I live 100 miles away from her residential care center, and I, too, am elderly, 74 years old, so I can’t drive 100 miles to a huge city to visit her frequently. If the elderly patient cannot communicate his or her feelings, desires, needs, or ideas, how can a family member or friend know if that patient is being well treated by the facility’s staff? Are there specific guidelines to follow and signs to look for? Should the family member or friend ask to see the elderly patient’s arms, legs, body uncovered? Should we ask to be shown the financial records on our family member? What rights does the inquiring family member or friend have to look into the medical care of their elderly family member or friend who is dependent upon a 24-hour residential care facility’s actions and records? This is an important issue that needs to be addressed to help family members or friends know how to discover mental, physical, or financial abuse or exploitation being enacted upon our elderly family member or friend..

    • Uncle B.

      Becky, I’ve read of cases where concerned relatives have brought hidden cameras. For instance, in a vase of plants, into the rooms of their parents, and recorded mistreatment; actually, the footage was pretty disturbing…old people being slapped around by staff, etc.

      Of course, you would never let on that you were doing anything like this, and if possible get a camera that would stream the footage to somewhere beyond the reach of the facility, in case they discovered it. And, I wouldn’t divulge the method, even after a case was filed, as that would enable the offenders to correct for that possibility and avoid it in future. Sort of like a military force pre-announcing its plan of attack; naturally, the enemy would be set up and waiting, in advance. And make no mistake, anyone doing this kind of thing IS an enemy, and deserves whatever punishment the law provides for, and probably more. Good luck to you..

    • Pedro A.

      Es hora de comenzar a exigir a las iglesias de todas las denominaciones, que dejen de estar haciendo relaciones públicas, mande a su gente a trabajar y supervisar a la gente que sufre, y se pongan a trabajar en hospitales y geriátricos. Antes cuando uno entraba a un hospital o geriátrico, lo primero que se encontraba era con monjas. Ahora no solo que se cortaron sus vestidos sino, que desaparecieron de esos lugares y están de fiestas en las escuelas. Una verdadera vergüenza.

    • katie

      My mom had Alzheimer’s Diseaw for 13 years. We tried to always keep her with us but that became an impossibility that always saddens me.
      What I can share are somethings I’ve not heard spoken of much. Alzheiner’s patients do have ways to convey information. If there is someone that can visit regularly weekly perhaps or even less frequently if need be, but those afflicted know the difference between love (kindness) and those who don’t care, are mean and even harmful. Watch the reactions over time, responses of those who may seem sweet in the prescence of a friend or family member will be noticible over a few times as comparisons to different care givers is noted. Also, look to see how other patients/reidents respond to care givers. The signs can become quite evidenced unfortunately. Once something is noted, when in a quite safe area maybe whipe reading a book to them and after a suspected person has been around acting nice and the patient isn’t just having an off day but similar behaviors observed a few times say something like, i get the feeling maybe that person isn’t always nice like they were just acting. Even those with minimal communication abilities can & do find ways of communicating abuses. Those who are kind one will observe a tendency to relax and be receptive to the help offered. It is in resistence that I was able to observe some things happening. If there is no one see if social services can visit or find a volunteer to sit with your loved one frim time to time. These people are pretty receptive to what’s going on. I’m sorry your living the sadness of your sister’s disease. Write her large letter, colorful paper notes or send a couple photos or a flower calender and ask for ther to be near her viewing space. Have this checked. Sticking stuff in a drawer where it will never be seen is a sign of lack of care or concern. People with Alzheimer’s have trouble seeing/differentiating colors so bright contrasts in rooms, dining areas show someone is paying attention. Blessings to you and your sister. Katie

    • Ray F.

      Hello Rebecca. You can get more information by visiting the National Center on Elder Abuse webpage.

      • no n.

        visit at different times during the day. Don’t tell them you are going to visit. try that I lived in n.h. for over ten years. They have their own cameras and will work with them.

  10. Wendolyn E.

    I would like to be apart

    • YASMINE O.

    • Ray F.

      Hello Wendolyn, for more information on how you can help visit the National Center on Elder Abuse webpage.

      • Brenda

        My mother’s social security from her deceased husband is being taken by the step children. They tell her it is their part.

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