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Identifying undue influence on elders

| Jun 15, 2021 | Elder Law |

If you have older relatives living in Indiana, you should know how to recognize when elders are under undue influence. According to the National Center on Law & Elder Rights, undue influence describes a psychological process that can be used against seniors as a means of committing elder abuse. As a legal concept, most statutes and case law recognize that undue influence can undermine the victim’s self-determination.

Defining undue influence

The first psychologist to connect undue influence and elder abuse described people using their power and role to exploit elders’ fear, dependency, and trust, deceptively gaining control over the victim’s decision-making. The undue influence tactics described in elder law are similar to those used with cults, domestic abusers, sexual abusers grooming victims, and brainwashing. The perpetrator is typically someone who already has a relationship of trust established with the elder, including intimate partners, relatives, and caretakers, among others.

Types of undue influence

In elder law, financial exploitation occurs when an individual, fiduciary, or caregiver fraudulently, illegally, or without authorization, uses the resources of an older person for their own personal gain and deprives the older person of their rightful access to their benefits, assets, resources, or belongings. In the context of elder abuse, abuse involves knowingly inflicting psychological or physical harm or depriving goods or services necessary for meeting needs or avoiding harm, including sexual abuse.

Identifying undue influence

Elders, especially those with diminished capacity, are typically unaware that they are being subjected to undue influence. Oftentimes, the victim may identify with or attempt to protect their influencer. However, many of the tactics used in undue influence may be readily detected by trained professionals like lawyers and law enforcement officers.