Understanding the Signs of Undue Influence
How PACE Can Help Protect Vulnerable Seniors
As seniors age, they can become susceptible to elder abuse through a practice known as “undue influence.” If your parent or loved one is elderly and living alone, it is so important to know the signs of undue influence, how and why it can occur, and how to prevent it.
What Is Undue Influence?
In a report on elder abuse, the National Center on Law & Elder Rights (NCLER) defines undue influence as a psychological process that is used as a means to commit elder abuse, including financial exploitation. This particular form of elder abuse has been referred to as the “crime of the 21st century.” In 2018, a Bloomberg article cited that approximately $37 billion is stolen from seniors each year through fraud and undue influence. This is how researcher Margaret Singer described undue influence in the NCLER report: “When people use their role and power to exploit the trust, dependency, and fear of others…they use this power to deceptively gain control over the decision making of the second person.”
Examples of Undue Influence
It might help to think of undue influence as a type of manipulation. Any vulnerable adult who is dependent on someone else is an easy target. Undue influence usually occurs with someone who is in a position of trust with the senior—while it can occur with a stranger, it is not always someone unfamiliar to the senior. This individual could be a partner, relative, caregiver, friend, neighbor, or another close acquaintance.
These are a few examples of what can result from undue influence:
- A family member who expected to be included is taken out of a senior’s will
- A shared bank account is drained
- A senior’s financial assets are mismanaged
- A senior is coerced for more money through neglect
- A telephone pitcher convinces senior to wire money for fees to collect a “prize”
- A senior’s personal items are stolen
Why Are Seniors Vulnerable to Undue Influence?
Two of the biggest factors contributing to a senior’s vulnerability are isolation and loneliness. Seniors who are cognitively impaired, dependent on others, or are recently bereaved can also be targeted. The best way that you can protect the older adults in your life is to ensure they stay as socially active as possible. Programs like McGregor PACE offer socialization and care to seniors in Cuyahoga County who continue to live at home in their community. PACE services sharpen the mind, decrease feelings of fear, and surround a senior with compassionate caregivers and community resources who can help detect and prevent undue influence.