Elder Financial Exploitation: How to Protect Seniors

Whether it’s a parent, grandparent, or a neighbor, you likely have an older person in your life whom you worry about and consider particularly vulnerable. Unfortunately, there is valid cause for concern regarding elder abuse or neglect, with at least one in ten elderly individuals falling victim to it each year. Elder financial exploitation is especially prevalent, accounting for about half of all elder abuse incidences each year, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. To help you protect the seniors in your life, a Murfreesboro family elder law attorney at Bennett | Michael | Hornsby explains how to spot signsDinah of financial exploitation and offers tips to prevent falling prey to it.

The Startling Reality of Elder Abuse and Neglect

While we have all heard news stories about elder abuse or neglect, the true extent of the issue often goes unrecognized. The aging population in the United States has grown significantly over the past century, with the population aged 65 and over expanding nearly five times faster than the total population from 1920 to 2020, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Regrettably, this demographic shift has created more potential targets for those who prey on the elderly. Compounding the problem is the underreporting of abuse or neglect by elderly victims. According to the National Council on Aging (NCOA), up to five million older Americans suffer abuse annually, resulting in an estimated annual loss of at least $36.5 billion due to financial abuse, yet fewer than one in 24 instances of elder abuse are ever reported.

Different Forms of Elder Abuse

While you may have a general idea of what constitutes elder abuse, the NCOA recognizes several distinct types, including:

  • Physical abuse: Inflicting physical pain or injury upon an older adult.
  • Sexual abuse: Involving any form of sexual activity with an older adult who is unable to understand, unwilling to consent, threatened, or physically forced.
  • Emotional abuse: Verbal assaults, threats, harassment, or intimidation.
  • Confinement: Restraining or isolating an older adult, except for medical reasons.
  • Passive neglect: Failing to provide an older adult with life necessities like food, clothing, shelter, or medical care.
  • Willful deprivation: Denying an older adult necessary medication, medical care, shelter, food, or other assistance, exposing them to risk.
  • Financial exploitation: Misusing or withholding an older adult’s resources.

Understanding Elder Financial Exploitation

Elder financial abuse, also known as exploitation, encompasses a broad spectrum of illegal or inappropriate actions involving an older person’s finances or possessions. This form of elder abuse manifests in various ways and can occur in diverse situations, such as:


  • Family members exploiting an older person’s reduced mental capacity to coerce or unlawfully take money or assets.
  • Caregivers misusing an elder’s funds without authorization or pilfering property from their residence.
  • Deceiving an elderly individual into signing documents that transfer assets to the perpetrator, whether immediately or upon the elder’s passing.
  • Targeting seniors for financial scams through phone calls, mail, online platforms, or face-to-face interactions.

Preventing Elder Financial Abuse 

The realization that an elderly loved one could be vulnerable to abuse is deeply unsettling; however, there are proactive steps you can take to mitigate this risk:

  • Open communication: Engage in dialogue with your elderly loved one about elder abuse and encourage them to confide in you if they feel victimized or uncomfortable.
  • Family caregiver vigilance: While not assuming guilt without cause, recognize that familial relationships do not guarantee trustworthiness, as two out of every three perpetrators of elder abuse are family members.
  • Facility research: Conduct thorough investigations before selecting a long-term care facility, including checking complaints, interviewing administrators, and speaking with residents.
  • Caregiver screening: Independently verify the background checks conducted by home health care services or companies.
  • Financial oversight: Keep a close eye on your loved one’s finances, monitoring for missing funds or unpaid bills.
  • Legal preparations: Discuss the possibility of guardianship with your estate planning attorney to ensure you have the legal authority to act if you suspect financial abuse.

By being proactive and informed, you can play a vital role in protecting older loved ones from the pervasive threat of elder financial exploitation.

Contact a Murfreesboro Elder Law Attorney 

If you are concerned about elder financial exploitation in Tennessee, consult with an experienced Murfreesboro elder law attorney at Bennett | Michael | Hornsby as soon as possible. Contact the team today by calling 615-898-1560 to schedule your free appointment.


Dinah Michael