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What does financial abuse look like in a nursing home setting?

When your loved ones age, you take whatever steps are necessary to help. At first, this could include helping with transportation, cooking and maintenance at a home. Eventually, many elderly people need around the clock supervision and care to treat illnesses and prevent injuries.

You likely did a lot of research before deciding on an elder care or nursing home facility for your family member. However, even in the best of settings, abuse can occur. It only takes one unscrupulous employee to endanger and abuse your loved one, no matter the reputation of the facility in question.

Many facilities have policies and rules in place to protect your loved one. However, without careful supervision, abuse and neglect still happen. Emotional, sexual and physical abuse are often easier to detect. It can be harder to identify financial abuse, because your loved one may not realize that what is happening is abuse. There are regulations in place to protect your family member from financial abuse, but it can and does still happen at any number of elder care or nursing home facilities.

What exactly is financial abuse?

The most blatant forms of financial abuse involve writing forged checks or literally stealing cash, checks, jewelry and valuables or credit cards from residents. These forms of financial abuse, once noticed, can be the easiest to prove.

In some cases, however, financial abuse is much more subtle. A worker may slowly groom a patient with stories about hardship, financial difficulty or a rough childhood. Your loved one, over time, may feel compassion and a desire to help the person spinning these stories. People may gift cash or checks, or the abuser may even get added to a will.

There are laws and business policies intended to prevent these kinds of manipulation, but unscrupulous workers won't be stopped by a policy. As soon as you discover the abuse, you should advise the facility of what is happening. If the business fails to take immediate action, including the termination of the abuser, you need to be even more proactive. You may have to work with an attorney to hold the employee and the facility accountable.

You may also need to challenge the estate plan or will in court if it isn't changed before your family member passes away. Sometimes people don't realize this kind of abuse was taking place until a will or trust is read after the death of a loved one. No matter how you discover financial abuse, working with an attorney who understands elder abuse laws can help to hold the abuser accountable and prevent the victimization of others in the future.

Case examples: Financial abuse

The Illinois Department of Public Health recently released a statement affirming that a nursing home was cited and fined $2,200 for the financial abuse of one of their residents.

The nursing home's director of social services contact the resident's mother and wanted to talk about a long-term care plan, which included selling the resident's home. Soon after, the nursing home's business manager told the resident that her home had to be sold. Further, he recommended that it be sold to the husband of the nursing home's director of social services for $10,000. However, the house' fair market value was $82,769, and that was clearly noted in the property assessment that was in the resident's financial file. Indeed, it was ultimately resold for $95,000.

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