What is Elder Abuse?

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Elder abuse is an intentional or negligent act by any person that causes harm or a serious risk of harm to an older or vulnerable person who cannot give knowing consent. Elder Abuse is further defined by 5 types, financial exploitation, physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse and neglect. Financial Exploitation is the focus of this post.

Types of Elder Abuse:

  • Exploitation: Theft, fraud, misuse, or neglect of authority, and use of undue influence to gain control over an older or vulnerable person’s money or property.
  • Physical abuse: Use of force to threaten or physically injure an older or vulnerable person.
  • Emotional abuse: Verbal attacks, threats, rejection, isolation, or belittling acts that cause or could cause mental anguish, pain, or distress to an older or vulnerable person.
  • Sexual abuse: Sexual contact that is forced, tricked, threatened, or otherwise coerced upon an older or vulnerable person.
  • Neglect: Failure or refusal to provide for an older or vulnerable person’s safety, physical, or emotional needs.


Older and vulnerable persons may be being mistreated in multiple settings (homes, nursing homes, assisted living facilities) by family members, friends and neighbors, professionals, and strangers.

Red Flags of Financial Exploitation:

  • Erratic or unusual banking transactions, or changes in banking patterns, such as:
  • Frequent large withdrawals, including at the ATM.
  • Cash Card Purchases.
  • Internet purchases.
  • Uncharacteristic attempts to wire large sums of money.
  • Unusual or sudden changes in a will or other financial documents.
  • Uncharacteristic nonpayment or lapse of payment for services, which may indicate a loss of funds or loss of access to funds.
  • Unexplained disappearance of funds or valuable possessions.
  • Uncharacteristic non-sufficient funds activity or overdrafts.
  • Checks or documents:
    • Fraudulent signatures on financial documents.
    • Suspicious signatures on checks, such as different signatures or a firm signature that once was shaky.
  • A new caretaker, relative, or friend suddenly begins conducting financial transactions on behalf of the elder without proper documentation.
  • The elder shows an unusual degree of fear or submissiveness toward a caregiver or expresses a fear of eviction or nursing home placement if money is not given to a caretaker.
  • Changes in behavior of the elder:
  • Excitement over a financial opportunity or prize.
  • Reluctant to talk about subjects they discussed in the past.
  • Secretive or unresponsive to questions.
  • Seems nervous, anxious, or fidgety.

How to Prevent and Address Elder Abuse

Educate yourself on the warning signs of abuse, knowledge is power; support the community, especially programs that provide services for caregivers and older and vulnerable persons; stay in touch with older and vulnerable family and friends; and if you see something suspicious, say something.

How to Report Suspected Elder Abuse

Report suspected abuse to the proper authorities, such as local law enforcement and Adult Protective Services.  Area Agencies on Aging have resources and information on support for older and vulnerable persons and on reporting suspected abuse.






Suzette Morrow is a Fraud Research Specialist for Arvest Bank.