The Danger of Senior Leeches

It is a story I hear far too often. The discovery by loved ones that a vulnerable elderly person is being exploited.

The swindler is usually someone who started out as a friend, or a romantic partner, or a needy family member, or even a caregiver. Unfortunately there are far too many predators who are looking for susceptible seniors they can exploit for financial gain, housing or other benefits.

Family members need to be aware of the warning signs. Be on the lookout for people who do not have a home of their own and then attempt to move in with your loved one. Other telltale signs include folks who talk too much about their personal problems and need for money. One of the cruelest and hardest scams to deal with is the person who pretends to be a romantic interest as a way of gaining money or other favors.

These people typically make themselves appear to be essential in the mind of the elderly person. They isolate the senior from their social supports and family, often creating a false negative view of the family. They also can physically move in, making eviction the only way to remove them, which is time consuming, expensive and stressful.

Once the leach has made their way into an elderly person’s life it can be very difficult to get them out. Significant and irreparable financial and interpersonal harm can occur. While there might not be any physical signs, this is certainly a form of Elder Abuse.

Resolving these issues is not easy and takes strong will and determination. The predator will fight to retain control and access. Family members often need to seek legal and other professional resources to help their loved one. Sometimes it might even be necessary to pay off the leach to get out. But don’t give up. With enough pressure, eventually the scammer will move on to their next target.

by Joan Garbow, LCSW, CCM