Financial abuse is a common form of nursing home abuse. Financial abuse includes tampering with or seizing the financial assets, income, benefits, or other financial property that belong to the senior. While seniors in resident homes want to enjoy life and stay healthy, they need to keep an eye on their financial matters – especially those people who they rely on and trust. Financial abusers can include management, nursing home staff, doctors, nurses and other caregivers. Abusers can also include family, friends, and anyone with access to the senior or the senior’s financial records. Sadly, many elder residents don’t learn of the financial abuse until the funds or assets are gone.
According to the National Adult Protective Services Association, financial exploitation of seniors is on the rise. Only a fraction of cases of financial abuse are ever reported even though one in 20 seniors say that have suffered financial abuse. Because of the abuse, many seniors are required to seek Medicaid assistance.
Examples of Nursing Home Financial Abuse
Even highly aware seniors can be subject to professional scams such as predatory lending and pressure to buy annuities backed by real property securities. What makes nursing home abuse unique is that most cases are based on some form of trust. Seniors rely on others to help out with financial matters because the senior often cannot leave the facility without help. Seniors often give out many forms of financial information such as social security numbers and bank account numbers without fully understanding that this information can be stolen.
Some common types of financial abuse seniors can suffer in nursing homes are:
- Stealing the senior’s identity. Using the senior’s personal information for personal gain. A typical example is using the senior’s credit card number to make unauthorized purchases.
- Cashing checks improperly. This can be done by forging the senior’s signature, getting the senior to sign a blank check, or getting the senior to sign a check for unnecessary services or products. Staff, management, and others in positions of trust may also directly steal deposits such as Social Security checks or pension benefits.
- Taking property without consent. Some people can just steal the senior’s jewelry, laptop, smartphone, clothes, or other personal assets while in the senior’s room.
- Coercing the elder resident. Getting the senior to sign wills, contracts, or other documents that favor the person who arranged the signing.
- False solicitation. Persuading the senior resident to give funds to charities that don’t exist.
- Abuse of a power of attorney. Many seniors give a relative or someone at the nursing home a power of attorney to handle their financial affairs. While this power can be used for good such as making it easier to manage bank accounts, it can also be abused. Powers of attorney should be clear and the assets regularly monitored.
Signs that Financial Abuse Has Occurred
Often economic abuse is not discovered until it is too late. Still, there are some signs and some steps that seniors and caring family members should constantly review. Some of the common signs of financial abuse are related to the senior’s finances. Other signs are revealed in how the senior behaves. Typical signs that financial abuse has taken place include:
- Bank accounts that do not balance on a monthly basis
- An inability to pay for services that the senior normally enjoyed such as personal care, private rooms, eating expenses or other items
- Missing possessions
- Signatures that don’t match the senior’s signature
- Unusual provisions in new wills
- Sudden sale of the senior’s personal residence or an inability to sell the resident because of high mortgages
- Accounts that are now joint accounts
- Depression in the senior
- Loss of trust
Steps to Prevent Abuse
Seniors should consult with an experienced nursing home attorney before they move into the nursing home. The lawyer can help prepare the right documents to protect the senior, explain the warning signs of abuse, and review the steps seniors should take to report and stop abuse. Other common steps the senior and those people the senior truly trusts should consider are:
- Periodically review all financial statements such as bank statements and credit card statements
- Reduce financial activity by considering direct deposits and withdraws
- Constantly change password access to online information
- Prepare a regular checklist of personal assets
- Don’t sign any legal documents without having a lawyer review them first
Reporting concerns to people in trust such as the nursing home have to be carefully done since the home itself may be part of the problem.
As with other types of abuse, seniors may want to turn to local law enforcement and to local agencies such as the Georgia Division of Aging Services, and the Georgia Department of Community Health or the Georgia Attorney General’s office.
Take Action against Financial Abuses
If financial abuse occurs or is suspected, it is important to act quickly. By consulting an experienced abuse lawyer, future abuse is more likely to be stopped and past abuse may have a remedy. A lawyer can explain your rights, the time you have to take action, and can file a legal claim against wrongdoers. Fast action may be necessary to seize assets wrongfully taken or to prevent them from being sold or transferred.
The lawyers at Butler Law Firm are strong advocates for victims of financial abuse. Contact us at (404) JUSTICE to schedule a free consultation – or complete our online contact form.