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4 signs of undue influence to watch for in elderly loved ones

As our parents and loved ones get older, their needs change. And to ensure their needs are met, spouses, children and relatives may be willing to do whatever they can to help. Such measures could include taking a loved one in to live with them, hiring aides or placing him or her in a long-term care facility.

Unfortunately, some parties will take advantage of their role in providing care or guidance to older people. They may try to manipulate or control someone who trusts them and depends on them for financial gain. As such, it can be crucial to know some of the signs that your loved one is a victim of undue influence.

What is undue influence?

Broadly speaking, undue influence involves one person using his or her position of power or authority to control another person's decisions.

In the context of an older adult, parties who may be most likely to attempt to exert this type of influence include those who provide emotional support, financial guidance or personal care. This could include:

  • Family members
  • Financial advisers
  • Salespeople
  • Care providers
  • Friends
  • In-home care aides

What does undue influence look like?

Undue influence can take many forms, but loved ones should be especially mindful of the following four signs that someone is being manipulated.

  1. The perpetrator is isolating the victim. The perpetrator might insist on staying with the victim during meetings and family events, even when other people request to spend time with the victim alone.
  2. There are indicators of fraudulent or excessive spending. Keep an eye out for checks bouncing, unpaid bills or unfamiliar credit card bills arriving in the mail.
  3. The victim starts having trouble accessing financial accounts. Issues might include increased security measures they did not put in place, changed passwords, or permissions allowing someone else to manage their money.
  4. The victim has become unusually close and reliant on someone unusual. This could be a stranger, a distrustful professional or a family member who had previously been estranged.

Under these circumstances, concerned loved ones may want to take action to protect a vulnerable party. Such actions can involve documenting suspicious events, alerting fiduciaries and talking to an attorney.

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