Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Are You Being Emotionally Manipulated?

Last week the Caregiver Coalition of San Diego County presented a forum on elder abuse. Each of the speakers gave great information on how to detect abuse or neglect and what steps to take once it is suspected.

One of the most difficult forms of elder abuse is financial abuse, which in 80% of cases involve a family member, often struggling with substance abuse or a gambling addiction, who takes advantage of a senior relative and drains their savings and income, said Det. Ferrell Layton, who handles the elder abuse unit for the San Diego Police Department.

Similarly, seniors can be easy prey for scam artists, who have become quite adept at getting the elderly to “buy into” overseas lotteries or wire money to bail out a grandson in jail in Mexico or Canada (and who sounds “funny” because they broke their nose in a car crash. . .).

Dr. Diane Darby Beach, director of education for Vista Gardens Memory Care, said the most likely victims of undue influence and manipulation are those who are lonely, depressed or anxious. Conversely, overly stubborn and arrogant individuals also are more susceptible because predators know how to appeal to their ego.

Here are some of the warning signs of undue influence, especially if the victim is physically or mentally impaired:
  • After only a brief relationship, someone becomes a confidant and systematically isolates a senior to keep them away from other family and friends
  • Intercepting phone calls and mail
  • Taking a victim on an unexpected trip to further isolate them and also to create a new situation and environment that makes them more vulnerable

Emotional manipulators often:
  • Say “I’m sorry you feel that way” instead of apologizing with “I’m sorry”
  • Want to be more and more involved in your life
  • Promise one thing and later deny ever saying it
  • Make someone feel guilty for speaking up – or not speaking up enough
  • Talk behind someone’s back to get others to say what they won’t say themselves
  • Have no sense of accountability and believe it’s always about what everyone else has done to them

How do you protect yourself or a loved one or friend from undue influence?
  • Stay connected and make sure seniors who are vulnerable to manipulators stay out of isolation as well.
  • Get more involved in someone’s life and get others involved
  • Consider contacting police or adult protective services if such abuse is suspected
  • If legal action is called for, make sure the hired attorney is trained in elder abuse and undue influence

And if you are a professional who wants to learn more about elder abuse and neglect, consider signing up for the upcoming Glenner Symposium on Elder Abuse & Neglect on Friday, June 7 at Sharp Spectrum Auditorium. It’s designed for professionals who currently or contemplate having senior-aged clients and patients. Learn more at


Djena Graves Lennix said...

Thanks for this useful article. Elder abuse is far too prevalent in our society. There is some proposed legislation to more strongly penalize financial elder abuse by misleading financial professionals, but what about friends and family members- the most likely culprits? I strongly encourage anyone who suspects elder abuse in any form to contact your local Adult Protective Services office immediately. In San Diego, the number is 800-510-2020. We must hold those responsible for abusing the most vulnerable among us accountable.

Djena Graves Lennix
President, Accent on Seniors

Glenner Memory Care Centers said...

Thank you, Djena. You're so right that this is an issue that needs stronger penalties, even if they are meted out to close family members (maybe especially because they are close family members!)