Skip to Content
415-441-8669 | TOLL FREE: 888-50EVANS

PHONE: 415-441-8669 | TOLL FREE: 888-50EVANS

Isolation and Manipulation Tactics Used by Abusers

Great strides have been made in educating the public about elder abuse, but the sad truth is that most elder abuse (including physical elder abuse, financial elder abuse, and emotional elder abuse) goes unreported. There are many reasons why this is the case, but one of the simplest is that victims of elder abuse tend to be isolated from friends, family members, and others who could detect and respond to the abuse. Isolation, in turn, increases elder abuse victims’ susceptibility to manipulation, potentially allowing others to change their estate plans or just take their property outright.  Our San Francisco elder abuse attorneys can help victims and their families respond by pursuing legal action against abusers. 

Physical Isolation 

The most basic way abusers isolate their victims is by physically separating them from friends and family members who could potentially intervene on their behalf and prohibiting access to the victim. An abusive caregiver may screen a senior’s mail and calls, tell callers the senior is unavailable to take a call or even refuse to open the door when a visitor comes. The elderly are particularly vulnerable to physical isolation because they often lack mobility. Elderly individuals who live in nursing homes or who are home-bound with in-home caregivers are common victims of physical isolation. Physical isolation heightens the risk of physical elder abuse, as physical isolation makes the abuse easier to conceal. 

Emotional Isolation 

Abusers typically want to nurture a sense of helplessness and dependence in their victims. To accomplish those goals, they might try to emotionally isolate their victims by turning them against family and friends. This could involve: 

  • Falsely accusing the target of inappropriate behavior
  • Continually resurfacing past fights or disagreements between the victim and the target 
  • Insinuating that the target does not love or care about the victim and that they’re only interested in their money
  • Cancelling visits from social workers, chaplains and others trying to advise or comfort a senior
  • Provoking disagreements between the victim and the target 

Emotional isolation is most damaging when the abuser is a friend, family member, or romantic partner, as those individuals can more effectively exploit the victim’s particular emotional vulnerabilities. 

Technological Isolation 

Technological isolation occurs when the abuser prevents the victim from communicating with friends and family members. It can include prohibiting the victim from calling, texting, emailing, or video conferencing with anyone without the abuser’s permission, as well as refusing to let incoming callers speak to the victim. Abusers may also prohibit victims from using the internet at all, including social media sites, or at least prohibit them from using it without strict supervision. 

Financial Isolation 

Abusers often use the power of the purse to isolate and manipulate their victims. The elderly are at particularly high risk of financial abuse because they often entrust their finances to others, such as trustees and attorneys-in-fact under powers of attorney. Financial isolation tactics can include: 

  • Tightly controlling the victim’s access to their money
  • Getting a senior’s credit card to run an errand
  • Offering to get a senior cash from an ATM and then memorizing the PIN
  • Confiscating the victim’s checkbook and credit and debit cards 
  • Getting a power of attorney for the senior 
  • Intercepting checks, cash, gifts, or government benefits 
  • Using the victim’s funds for the abuser’s personal benefit 
  • Breaching a fiduciary duty, such as by failing to give an accounting when required 

Financial elder abuse like the examples above can result in significant economic harm to its victims. If you’re aware of such abuse occurring, please contact a California elder abuse attorney to discuss your options for pursuing remedies. 

Invasion of Privacy 

One way abusers can keep their victims isolated is by ensuring that they spend as little time as possible outside the abuser’s supervision. Abusers may invade their victims’ privacy by: 

  • Refusing to let them speak to friends, family members, social workers, doctors, or financial professionals outside the abuser’s presence
  • Listening in on the victims’ calls or monitoring their texts and emails 
  • Demanding that the victim hand over the passwords to their online accounts 
  • Tracking the victim’s movements technologically 

Prohibiting a victim from speaking to others alone is a common red flag that can indicate elder abuse. If you notice this behavior, you should consider speaking to a San Francisco elder abuse attorney to discuss your concerns. 


Gaslighting is a type of emotional abuse and manipulation that can cause the victim to question their memories, perceptions, and sanity. It occurs where the abuser intentionally misleads the victim in an attempt to establish a false narrative or induce dependence on the abuser. For example, a very simple form of gaslighting involves the abuser questioning whether the victim’s (accurate) memory of an event is correct in an attempt to cause the victim to believe that their memory is inaccurate. As with most forms of manipulation, the elderly are particularly susceptible to gaslighting. Many elders who experience memory loss are aware of their condition, making them more likely to believe an abuser who falsely tells them they have misremembered something. 


Triangulation occurs when two people get into an argument or disagreement — typically the abuser and the victim. The abuser will then bring in a third party to “settle” the matter or to decide who is right. However, the abuser makes sure the third party will side with them by either choosing someone they know will agree with them or framing the disagreement in terms most favorable to their side. Triangulation is used to silence the victim by making them feel like their position is unreasonable.


Infantilization is a form of manipulation wherein the abuser treats the victim like a child in an attempt to induce feelings of helplessness or worthlessness. After a while, the victim may begin to question their abilities, which makes them more likely to relinquish control to the abuser. Infantilization is a very common form of elder abuse, as there are natural parallels between caring for the elderly and caring for children. 

Playing the Victim 

Caring for elderly adults is difficult. While that is no excuse for abuse, abusers often latch on to that difficulty to rationalize their behavior and elicit sympathy from their victims. In this way, the abuser is able to reverse the roles of abuser and victim. 

Protect Your Loved Ones With Help From a California Elder Abuse Attorney

Isolation provides a breeding ground for abuse and makes its victims more susceptible to manipulation. To begin fighting back against such abuse, please contact a San Francisco elder abuse attorney at the Evans Law Firm, Inc., by using our online contact form or calling 415-441-8669 or toll-free at 1-888-50EVANS (888-503-8267).

Law Dragons 500 badge Million Dollar Advocates Forum SuperLawyers Badge Best Lawyers Badge Avvo

Our Passion For Justice

415-441-8669 888-50EVANS

Hear What Our Clients Have To Say

"I contacted Attorney Ingrid Evans for advice about a financial elder abuse case. She was extremely knowledgeable, bright and informative. I highly recommend her. I am an attorney myself, and know when I am talking to a another excellent attorney."
Posted By: Terry Kolkey Attorney

Read More Reviews