How can we protect our elderly mother from being taken advantage of?

Ma-mouse asked...

My 78-year-old mother has been a widow since 2002. She is not incompetent, but she is being manipulated by a man 30 years her junior. He has lied his way into her life to the point that she believes he loves her and will marry her as soon as certain problems in his life are resolved. She has 'loaned' him over $30,000 to start a jewelry business in another town. No one--not even her dearest friends--can make her see this relationship and this man for what they truly are: that he is using her and her loneliness to get as much money as possible. How can we protect her if she is legally competent?

Expert Answer

Barbara Repa, a senior editor, is an attorney, a journalist specializing in aging issues, and the author of Your Rights in the Workplace (Nolo), now in its 10th edition.

There is, of course, a chance that true love has bloomed between your mother and this fellow, in which case you may want to rethink your concerns. But it sounds as if you and others are pretty well convinced that it's money rather than love that's the prime motivation. And it sounds as if talking honestly with your mother has not changed her mood or mind.

If you have not done so yet, consider gathering the children and asking the man to meet with you, expressing your concerns directly to him. This might risk agitating your mother for a while, but in a surprising number of cases, the "courtship" ends once a potential defrauder finds out that a potential victim actually has a number of caring family members on the lookout.

If that doesn't work, and you still see signs of financial scamming, act quickly to prevent more from occurring. Because financial elder abuse is sadly on the rise, there are a growing number of organizations to which you can turn for local help.

  • Your state's Adult Protective Services agency may provide tips and intervention. Find it by searching with your state name and "adult protective services."
  • The National Center on Elder Abuse operates a confidential toll free hotline at 800-677-1116. It also maintains a comprehensive list of resources for each state at
  • The Eldercare Locator, at 800-677-1116, also directs callers to senior information and referral telephone lines in their communities.
  • And INFOLINK, at 800-394-2255, directs callers to the closest, most appropriate services for crime victims.