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The Depressed Elderly are a Feast for Thieves
Frank Blood
/ Categories: Care, Safety

The Depressed Elderly are a Feast for Thieves

According to the World Health Organization, depression is now the number one cause for disability worldwide. We all want to prevent our loved ones from the physical and emotional burdens associated with this mental condition, yet there is another important reason why we shouldn’t ignore early warning signs. Our parents who suffer from depression, especially if they feel socially unfulfilled, are also more likely to become victims of all types of abuse from physical and emotional to neglect and exploitation.  

About 90% of abusers are family members or trusted others such as caregivers. However, the remaining 10% are strangers; and these criminals are especially evil when they prey on the innocent who are least able to defend themselves. Studies have shown a link between the emotional well-being of someone over the age of 65 and a vulnerability to people they don’t know who “seem so nice” and give them the attention they crave. Their goal is to steal as much money as possible and these predators are extremely adept at gaining trust quickly. There are things we can do to help protect our seniors and they work best when combined with a program to alleviate depression and reduce feelings of loneliness.


Help Defeat Depression

Why is depression and fraud so important to caregivers? Because at a minimum, the elderly lose money that may be needed for their care in the future: at the other extreme – it can be the final humiliation; a blow that pushes some to attempt suicide. The American Psychological Association reports that, “Older adults have the highest rates of suicide of any age group …” and, “Several efficacious treatments are available for geriatric depression but seem to be underused.”

One of the best antidotes to depression is social interaction to encourage feelings of connectedness and a sense of belonging. Adult day care centers provide exactly that kind of service through programs that encourage socialization and physical activity. Many seniors approach a program with suspicion and defiance but soon find themselves participating and having fun; which helps to put an end to their depression. They don’t feel lonely any more so they don’t fall for the con artist’s attempts to “make friends.” It’s much easier to help someone who is comfortable around others to learn what to say and do when exploiters try to make contact.

Here are three places to learn more about depression in older people and how you can help them overcome it.


Don’t Even Talk to a Thief

When you bring up the subject of fraud with your parents, it’s not enough to just tell them what not to do; it’s important to explain why. If they understand the consequences, they’ll have a better chance of recognizing a scam and acting appropriately. Thieves that prey on the elderly are highly skilled at responding to objections and are quick with answers to put their mark’s mind at ease. The best protection is to avoid engaging with them altogether. Don’t answer questions or give opinions. Don’t read their emails. Don’t open the door. Simply walk away, hang up the phone, or do whatever else it is that you need to do – but stay away from them.

Rather than posting an extensive list of the popular scams in this article, here are links to four resources that cover many of them along with advice on how to protect yourself and your loved one from being taken.


Caregivers don’t have the privilege to ignore any real threat to the well-being of the ones they are responsible for – nor do they want to. Of course, this doesn’t mean that they have to be the one to do the work; they have every right, and even an obligation, to get help from others. For example, a number of siblings may divide responsibilities amongst themselves. But when one of them notices an issue that needs attention, they have to say something and try to get it resolved. If you suspect someone is taking advantage of your loved one, ask enough questions to satisfy your curiosity. Either learn that there is nothing to be concerned about or find out what it is you need to address.

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1 comments on article "The Depressed Elderly are a Feast for Thieves"


depression often comes from loneliness!

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