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Seniors’ Desperation: A Perfect Tool For Elder Abuse


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Can you think of anything that makes a person more desperate than being in pain?  You can’t stand it and you want to stop it. Maybe you’ll fall for anything that promises to end your pain.

My mother in law, Alice, now 92 was feeling like that. She had chronic knee pain that was getting worse.  She went with some friends to one of those “free lunch seminars” we’ve told you about here at They are always a vehicle for selling something.

This one was put on near a large Sun City seniors’ community.  The place is full of fairly well to do elders, some quite wealthy.  Nice target, right?  The perpetrator in this situation was a chiropractor.  He knew exactly what he was doing, promising to end everyone’s chronic pain.  All they had to do was sign up for his “guaranteed” to work pain relief program for a mere $3000 payable in advance and of course, nonrefundable.  He carefully never put the guarantee in writing, but he used verbally it to seduce anyone there into believing his promise of pain relief.

Alice called me and asked about the chiropractor. She doesn’t know how to do internet research.  I checked him out. Shady. No good reviews. Bad sign, even though his license was valid. That means nothing.  I advised her not to go through with his program and politely told her there were suspicious things I found in checking him out.  She said she was ready to try anything and he assured her that everyone got good results. She went anyway.

The chiropractor in question didn’t even see her. His assistant did the work, which involved very brief “treatment” and a very long pressured talk  to try to get her to buy his expensive supplements which they now said would enable the treatment to work.  As the scam became more obvious, Alice got disgusted. The “treatment” did nothing at all for her pain.  She quit and asked for her money back. No dice.  They essentially told her to get lost if she didn’t care to come back.

Mikol and I got her permission and filed a complaint with the State Chiropractic Board. The Board prosecutes fraud and license violations through the state Attorney General. They pursued the chiropractor, eventually settling with him.  He paid a fine and was probably placed on probation. Big deal.  Of course none of this gets Alice her money back.  At last check he’s still in business.

What did Alice do about her chronic pain?  Medical marijuana is legal in CA. She got a card, and got some cream for her knees. That and medical marijuana oral drops work rather well. She’s back on her treadmill for exercise.  The marijuana she takes has no mind-altering component, so it’s just pain relief.

What can professionals do about these scams promising pain relief?  First, share this story with your own clients.  Pain relief is a big opportunity for scammers. They may be chiropractors or others who have some kind of license. They may be selling magic potions on the internet.   It could start with one amount and escalate as it did with the chiropractor to expensive add ons, his “supplements”.

Recent research shows that many seniors who get taken for relatively small amounts of money often become victims in escalating amounts over time. They want to trust when they feel desperate and that makes them vulnerable to manipulation.

What can you do as a professional to stop the ripoff artist?  Here are three things:

1.   If you learn about this sort of shady character, encourage your client to fight back.  File a complaint. Write a letter to the entity in power.  Don’t just give up in embarrassment.  You can offer your help with paperwork or complaint form.

2.  Spread the word. If you have a list of aging clients, warn them by email about any shady operations in your area.  You never know who you might be saving by doing that.

3. Make it public. If your client’s story is particularly awful and you get permission to share it, local newspapers, TV or radio stations may be interested in it.  That’s one way to educate and thwart these predators.

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