Elder Financial Abuse


Defenseless seniors are abused just like defenseless small children. Millions of senior citizens are abused in the United States and most of the abuse goes unreported.  Unlike child abuse, elders not only face physical, sexual, and emotional abuse, but also financial abuse. Read my following personal stories and avoid being victimized or allowing a loved one to be victimized because you didn’t see the signs.

This topic hits home as I have two personal stories to share which will haunt me until the day I die. Elder abuse is often committed by the least suspected persons. Many times the people closest to them who have their trust and rely on them are sadly taking advantage of their vulnerability. Others may suspect foul play, but remain silent because the senior being victimized may get upset and angry with them for being suspicious of their family member or trusted advisor. This will result in further victimization as the scammer will feel empowered to increase their abuse knowing the victim is in denial and the concerned person has been ostracized.



Sadly, con artists can be people who have gained your trust over a long period of time. Attorneys, accountants, brokers, neighbors, business associates, religious leaders, caregivers, old friends, and even close family members which frequently include children and grandchildren.

Abuse can be any combination of emotional, physical, sexual, financial, neglect, abandonment, and self-neglect. People who suffer abuse over a period of time can form justifications for it. In some cases abused seniors (just like abused children) blame themselves or fear losing the only person they can rely on for their basic needs.

If you are in-fact being abused or are concerned about being abused, don’t hesitate to contact the agencies listed below for help.

In the case of financial abuse, you may have lost access to your own accounts and have granted access to someone else without even realizing it.  The time to act is now before you learn everything has been transferred with little chance of ever getting anything back.

Access to money without oversight can easily corrupt a person. It generally starts off slow with small amounts and justifications that it is deserved in return for services rendered or time spent. Once the trusted person sees you are no longer paying attention, the amounts get larger and the abuse won’t stop until you have nothing left including your own home.

The following stories are my personal experiences and I hope they help someone else while they still have time to act.



National Center on Elder Abuse: Resources in all fifty states:  https://ncea.acl.gov/Resources/State.aspx https://ncea.acl.gov/

Department of Justice (links for all 50 states): https://www.justice.gov/elderjustice/responding-elder-abuse-your-state




Oregon State

Report Abuse: https://www.oregon.gov/dhs/abuse/Pages/index.aspx

Multnomah County, OR:   https://www.multco.us/ads/adult-protective-services

City of Portland, OR:  https://www.portlandoregon.gov/Police/41857

Washington County, OR:  https://www.co.washington.or.us/Sheriff/OtherServices/elder-safe-program.cfm

Washington State

Report Abuse: https://www.dshs.wa.gov/altsa/home-and-community-services/report-concerns-involving-vulnerable-adults

Clark County, WA https://clark.wa.gov/prosecuting-attorney/elder-justice-center


My mother lived alone in a large high-rise building dedicated to seniors and disabled people in NJ. She had a serious medical condition called venous ulcers that affected her legs for the last ten years of her life. As such, she had a visiting part-time home caregiver assigned to visit her and make sure she took her medications, cleaned her apartment, and did some shopping and laundry.

I lived 3,000 miles away from her and would visit once or twice a year.  I noticed her place was never clean and when I said I would call to complain she begged me not to make trouble as getting a stable caregiver that at least showed up was difficult and she allowed her caregiver to skip out on most of her duties because she would complain about how many others she had to care for which made my mother feel sorry for her.

One year, I noticed a very old painting from the 1800’s and some of her possessions were gone. She told me that the caregiver really liked them so she let her take them. The caregiver was very poor and had nothing, which may have been very true, but so was my mother who was living on Social Security, Housing Assistance and Medicaid.

Again, it was my mother’s choice and she insisted there was nothing to be concerned about. I lived far away and honestly, I accepted my mother’s wishes. I was not there to help her and she wasn’t going to leave her apartment. If she wanted to reward her caregiver, I was not in any position to stop her.

I also noticed she had several partially full and insanely large bottles of pain medication. I asked her if she took so many pain killers and she told me she took several a day, but the doctor prescribed far more than she could ever take.

She didn’t need so many pills, but an old friend who claimed to suffer with pain and didn’t have insurance would take some of the pills whenever she stopped by. What my mother didn’t understand was those pills were selling on the street for twenty dollars each. My mother also knew that old friend and her daughter had long histories of drug addiction.

To me, these people were thieves, drug addicts, and drug dealers, but again, I was 3,000 miles away and my mother insisted all was fine and not to make any trouble for them. She didn’t seem a bit concerned. I was not there long enough to intervene or understand the full impact these people were having to her life.

She was of sound mind for her age and thinking back, these people (even with their flaws), were people she looked forward to seeing and chatting with. Living alone with a disability in old age is a very lonely life and the last thing she wanted was to end up in a nursing home. I think she accepted any abuse from anyone just to be able to stay in her own place. After seeing the conditions of low income nursing homes, I fully understood her fear of ending up in such a deplorable place as an overcrowded, understaffed Medicaid funded nursing home.

When my mother passed away, I got to really see just how filthy her home was. The caregiver never even dusted the place. There was no food in the refrigerator and my mother wore the same old nightgown all week. I have no idea what was stolen from her.

All she left behind was a collection of sad poems and stories about her life. My message here is that if you have a loved one living alone and depending on strangers, please don’t accept that all is well. Take time off work, get to know everyone they interact with (including their doctors and caregivers) and let them know you are always watching and will not accept any form of abuse or neglect even if your loved one says it’s OK.

Next is how my grandmother was abused.

This happened to my own dear grandmother on my father’s side.  Her husband happened to immigrate to American at the right time, move to the right place, and have marketable skills in great need.

The silent movie industry was booming in Ft. Lee, NJ in the early 1900’s.  He was earning a considerable sum of money as a carpenter in set design. My grandmother was a shrewd investor in real estate during the Great Depression; when others were selling, she was buying.  Needless to say, they were very well-off at the time of their retirement. In fact, they retired to their own small island in Florida until they later moved into a zero maintenance retirement condo.

Soon after, one of her daughters and her husband moved into the unit just below my grandmother. As my grandmother aged, she became totally dependent on that one daughter to take her shopping, send gift packages to all of her grandchildren, and oversee her seemingly endless medical appointments and general well-being. This was surely no easy task as my grandmother was quite demanding. I never felt my aunt was not deserving of special treatment for her efforts; however, she had established this bizarre codependency long before as she and her husband lived in my grandparent’s very nice Ft. Lee, NJ home for many years without paying a cent more than the property taxes and mowing the grass.

What I didn’t see was the slow and steady transfer of wealth from my grandmother’s estate without her knowledge. In her last year, they moved her into a nursing home without sharing where she was. I attempted to call and write each of her daughters to allow me to speak with my grandmother. They made excuses that contacting her would upset her fragile state of mind.  I was told there was no point in contacting her as she was no longer mentally sane and I could not trust anything she would say as she was completely incoherent. One of the three daughters completely ignored me.

I can say that being told this by her daughter felt like a knife through my heart. The sudden realization that my own family members, people I had fond memories of would bar me from speaking with my own grandmother was devastating. She knew very well how close we had always been. If anything, a call from me would have been comforting.

Over several months, I literally went through the phone directory and called every nursing home in her county in Florida. After scores of phone calls, I found her. The people there were happy to get her on the phone. She knew me and was happy to hear from me.  She was confused about where she was and why she had not heard from me. Astonishingly, she said to me: “I think they are taking all of my money.”

We were very close and I never interfered with anything as I was just one of eight grandchildren.  I assumed her daughters were taking care of her and trying to keep her comfortable. I was 3,000 miles away, working a busy job and raising three children. I was naïve to not realize that the elimination of one fourth of her inheritors was a gold mine worth denying my grandparents wishes and committing fraud. I told her I would come to see her. I planned a trip to visit her three weeks after that call.  That was the last time I heard her voice. She suddenly passed away before I could get there.

Her daughter, my aunt who lived near the nursing home knew I had found her and had spoken with her.  My aunt didn’t have the decency to even call me. She had her daughter (my cousin) call me to tell me that grandma had passed away and she made it clear that all of her money was used for her medical care so I should not expect anything from her estate.

Imagine the cold-heartedness of such people. People who up to that moment were blood relatives that you had fond memories of growing up together were suddenly your darkest enemies because there was money involved and they stole every penny of it.

I did some research into public records and sure enough, all of her property was transferred, her Last Will and Testament was changed. Her real estate was “Quit Rent” for the sum of ten dollars. If there was a living trust, we didn’t find it. Interestingly, the attorney involved passed away the same year and the people who took over his practice claimed to find no documents related to my grandmother.

My sister and I didn’t receive as much as an old photograph from my grandparent’s multi-million dollar estate. We were treated like outsiders looking to steal from them!

Our Grandparents adored us and made it clear in their original Will that their estate was to be equally divided among their children and any deceased child’s share would pass to their children. We never wanted or asked for a dime, we just loved our grandmother. She truly kept an eye on my sister and I as children after my father departed. We were only three and five years old and my father was her only son. In retrospect, she clearly was trying to make up for the failure of her son to provide for his children.

If you are a true loving family member or friend, gently raise these questions when you have their full attention. Learn their situation and try to understand their wishes. Get these things clearly documented:

  • Do they have wishes for their funeral or cremation arrangements?
  • Do they have a Will, a Living Trust, a Medical Directive, and a Power of Attorney?
  • Who has been named to ensure their wishes are met? Who is their executor, trustee (if there is a Trust) and who has power of attorney and who is their attorney?

Document what you learn in case there is foul play down the road.

If it is clear that nothing has been arranged, ask if you can help and get them an appointment with a local estate planning attorney.  If an attorney is too expensive, all of these documents can actually be done online. You could assist your loved one or friend with filling out the documents. Don’t prepare any documents yourself as you will be blamed by the con artists for taking advantage of the elder. Make sure the elder is of sound mind and have everything notarized and have three witnesses so there is no shadow of a doubt about the wishes of the elder person at the time of their death.

If you suspect foul play, fill out the forms provided by our government agencies that I shared above.

Don’t worry about who you might offend because if they actually care about the elder person, they will understand your concern and they will have nothing to worry about. If they react viciously, you can be certain that they are up to no good.

I also learned by attending funerals that those who wail and put on brief demonstrations of grief at opportune moments are charlatans. The quietly sobbing person in the back corner that says nothing is likely the one most hurt by the loss of their friend or loved one and the least likely to have expectations of some financial gain.

I regret to this day for not being able to help my Mother and Grandmother properly. I share these resources in hopes that other seniors and their loved ones can avoid abuse from the greedy, heartless individuals who take advantage of vulnerable seniors. I personally believe these low lives deserve long prison sentences for their crimes; sadly, most of them are never challenged.