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Undue Influence on the Elderly

Undue influence is a term that is not widely understood by the general public. It has multiple meanings, from psychological to legal definitions that concern a form of abuse that, in this case, is carried out on elderly folk. Undue influence has a special importance placed upon the vulnerability of an individual, exploiting their trust and other characteristics for one’s own gain.

The state of California has moved to legally hold perpetrators of undue influence accountable. If you or a loved one suspect that the process of undue influence is being used on an elder that you know, please report it immediately and reach out to a competitive California elder abuse attorney like Joel Bryant to seek justice and end the cynical actions of the abuser.

What Is Undue Influence? 

The psychological definition of undue influence spells out an instance in which a person utilizes “their position of power or trust to exploit the dependency and fear of others.” The goal of these tactics is to selfishly gain something by altering the decision-making power of the elder. In other words, using one’s personal relationship with an elder for financial or sexual endeavors. Undue influence may be common in cases in which caregivers or family members desire money, and decide to manipulate an elder into providing it for them. This psychological tactic is compared to those used in cults, perpetrators of domestic violence, and sexual groomers of younger individuals. 

Although definitions may vary from state to state, undue influence is nationally defined by the Elder Justice Act (EJA) and the Older Americans Act (OAA) as “the fraudulent or otherwise illegal, unauthorized, or improper act… of an individual, including a caregiver or fiduciary, that uses the resources of an [elder] for monetary or personal benefit, profit, or gain that results in depriving an older individual of rightful access to, or use of, benefits, resources, belongings, or assets.” While much of the legal definition focuses on finances, laws also extend these definitions to sexual activity. In the same way that the elder is leveraged for financial gain, their consent to sexual acts may also be leveraged – resulting in a breach of ethical conduct by exploiting their vulnerabilities.

Who Perpetrates Undue Influence and What Consequences Might They Face in California?

In order for undue influence to be effective, it must come from someone that the elder trusts a great deal. This is the leverage that is used against the elder. In legal and official terms, this is referred to as a “relationship of trust”. Some of these individuals can include: 

  • Intimate partners
  • Family members; children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, siblings
  • Clergy members
  • Caregivers such as nurses or assisted living aids
  • Neighbors
  • Friends
  • Financial managers

The deceptiveness of a perpetrator of undue influence does not go without punishment. California has recently developed both a statutory definition and a screening tool in recent years that has led to an increased awareness of the issue and a better ability to prosecute it in court. The projects – worked on by California experts on elder abuse – require judges to consider four factors in a court of law during the prosecution of undue influence:

  • The vulnerability of the elder
  • The perpetrator’s apparent authority
  • The actions and tactics used by the perpetrator
  • The equity of the result

Where to Turn if You Suspect Undue Influence of an Elder

Joel Bryant is a San Diego nursing home abuse attorney who is not only tenacious and determined in nature but also carries decades of experience prosecuting elder abuse at the benefit of victims and their families. If you are looking for a lawyer in a case of elder abuse, please call at your earliest convenience for a free consultation at (619) 239-7900 EXT 113 or click here.