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Exploring the Issue of Financial Abuse in Nursing Homes

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Friday, February 9, 2018

Exploring the Issue of Financial Abuse in Nursing Homes

Nursing home abuse is widespread in the United States. The types of abuse range from bedsores, to patients being malnourished, to outright physical battery. Most family members are now aware of the physical and emotional risks when picking nursing homes for their loved ones.

However, there is one silent type of abuse that might go on for months or years. It does not leave a physical mark or even emotionally affect the victim, but eventually, it will deprive them of a quality life or the things they need to thrive. This type of abuse? Financial.

Understanding Financial Abuse in Chicago Nursing Homes

Financial abuse – also known as financial exploitation or material exploitation – is an abuse of a person’s assets, funds, or personal property. A patient inside a nursing home can become an ideal target for financial abuse.

A nursing home resident is vulnerable to the deception required to steal funds from them, and in most cases, these victims are unaware that they have been targeted.

Common Examples of Financial Abuse

Some types of financial abuse are more commonly seen than others, including:

  • Forging the person’s signature on checks to gain access to assets.
  • Stealing physical property or cash from the victim.
  • Forcing the elderly person to sign over power of attorney, a will, or transfer a deed into the abuser’s name.
  • Manipulating a victim into signing over money, property, or other assets.
  • Promising to care for the victim only if they give money or property.
  • Using the property of the elderly party without their permission or consent.
  • Cashing the resident’s checks without permission.
  • Improperly using guardianship, power of attorney, or conservatorship documents to steal from the victim.

How Common Is Financial Abuse in Nursing Homes?

Financial abuse might not get media attention or even be a concern in the community, but financial abuse among the elderly is more common than you realize. In fact, the MetLife Mature Market Institute and National Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse found that financial abuse costs these victims approximately $2.6 billion annually. Worse, social and technological changes have increased the chances that an older adult will be the victim of financial abuse compared to just a few years ago.

Who Is Likely to Commit Financial Abuse?

Anyone can abuse an older adult in the nursing home by stealing, forging documents, or manipulating the victim into handing over their money and assets.

However, some parties are more common than others, including:

  • Caretakers – Caretakers inside the nursing home are often caught stealing or manipulating their patients into giving them money and assets. The person who has daily contact with the victim gains trust and can take advantage of their victim’s illnesses, such as a patient with dementia who will not remember writing a check.
  • Nursing Home Management – Nursing home management and owners can also partake in financial abuse. They may have control over a victim’s accounts for paying nursing home fees and taking care of medical charges but steal from those funds for personal use.
  • Family Members – Sadly, even in a nursing home, family members may steal money, assets, and property from their loved ones.
  • Other Residents – Another resident inside the nursing home could steal from victims that they know would be unable to tell that they have lost money, a checkbook, or given someone cash.
  • People in Trusted Positions – Another party in a trusted position, such as a counselor or physician, that gains the trust of their patient and then steals from them.

Know the Qualities of these Predators

Family members can be on the lookout for potential predators and protect their loved ones. Most of the time, perpetrators of these financial crimes share characteristics including:

  • Financial Difficulties – They may have gambling problems, be in serious debt, or difficulty with their finances – living paycheck to paycheck.
  • Alcohol or Drug Abuse – They could abuse prescription drugs, alcohol, or illegal substances.
  • Deceit – They may use unfair practices or deceive their victims. They could try to gain access by finding a job to care for the elderly, such as pretending to be a caretaker or counselor.
  • Overcharge – Instead of stealing outright, they might overcharge the victim for services or products that they use to gain extra money from them.

Qualities of the Victim

Just like it is essential to know the qualities of a potential perpetrator, it is equally important that you know the qualities that these perpetrators look for in their next victim. Some characteristics of elderly persons who are targeted for financial abuse in nursing homes include:

  • Dementia or Alzheimer’s – Patients with dementia or a form of dementia are more likely to be targeted because they will not recall giving money, and are less likely to testify against a perpetrator if that party is caught.
  • Physically Disabled – Other times the victim may be physically disabled and unable to stop someone from stealing money from them. They could be disabled and unaware of their financial situation.
  • Isolation – Victims without friends or family are more likely to be targeted as well because perpetrators can easily gain their trust or confidentially steal from them without worrying about a loved one recognizing the signs.
  • Lonely – A victim might give away possessions, money, and assets to gain friendship or affection because they are lonely.

The Issue of Power of Attorney Abuse

In a nursing home, power of attorney abuse is common. A power of attorney gives another party, whether it is a family member or person from the nursing home, control over the victim’s finances. This party can make decisions on behalf of the victim, and while they are required to do so in the best interest of the victim, the power can easily be abused.

Power of attorney abuse happens when the authorized party uses their power deceptively.

It is crucial that individuals are careful when selecting their power of attorney. They should pick a third party or family member that they can trust, and someone who is responsible enough to handle another person’s finances.

The Signs of Financial Abuse – Do You Know What to Look For?

Financial abuse sometimes occurs with obvious warning signs, while other times you might not see the signs for months or years. Family members, friends, and even caregivers should be aware of the symptoms of financial abuse.

If you suspect financial abuse, speak with your loved one, then contact law enforcement and have it investigated. If you suspect that a caretaker in your loved one’s nursing home is stealing, notify management immediately. Also, it may be in your best interest to contact an attorney. An attorney can file the necessary court requests to gain access to your loved one’s financial records, remove the person named as a power of attorney, and help prove that financial abuse occurred. More so, they may be able to seek damages so that your loved one’s money is returned to them.

Here are just some of the standard indicators that your loved one may be the target of financial abuse.

  • Unexplained money or asset transfers into an unrecognized name or family member that was not initially the beneficiary
  • Changes in your loved one’s will or financial documents
  • Living conditions that are below your loved one’s standards, while they are paying for nursing home care
  • Sudden or unexplained withdrawals from their checking account
  • Checks were written to a personal caregiver or financial professional
  • Belongings that are missing from their room in the nursing home
  • A suspected forged signature on titles of possession, checks, or other financial transactions
  • Additional parties being added as signers to credit card accounts and bank accounts in your loved one’s name
  • Your loved one stops talking about finances, refuses your visits, or engages in other unexplained behavior

Can Loved Ones Prevent Financial Abuse?

If you have a loved one staying in a nursing home, you might be miles away, but you can still protect them from financial abuse. In fact, family members are the first line of defense against financial abuse, and the sooner you catch it, the easier it might be to help get your family member’s money back.

The family should know the warning signs of financial abuse. Also, you should know who to contact immediately if you suspect that financial abuse has occurred.

Other ways to prevent financial abuse include:

  • Always investigating a nursing home before selecting it. Look for their reviews, any complaints, or official violations.
  • Use automatic bill pay systems to pay your loved one’s expenses instead of allowing them to pay for nursing home care or other costs each month.
  • Communicating with financial institutions if you suspect that your loved one has been targeted for financial abuse.
  • Reviewing your loved one’s account several times per month and tracking expenses – you must know where the money is going.

Speak with a Nursing Home Abuse Attorney

Often financial abuse occurs alongside physical abuse or neglect in nursing homes. Even if there is no physical abuse, your loved one could be left emotionally devastated after losing their life savings to financial abuse.

You do not have to tolerate financial or physical abuse in nursing homes. Instead, hold nursing homes accountable by hiring an attorney from Malman Law. Our attorneys are here to fight for your right to compensation.

Schedule a consultation today at 888-625-6265 or request more information online.

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