More than 1.5 million elderly individuals currently reside in more than 16,000 nursing homes across the United States. As the baby boomer generation ages (gracefully) the number of nursing home residents is likely to continue increasing. Nursing Home Abuse and neglect is a problem that is often discussed in media and amongst those who have loved ones in these facilities. Unfortunately, another problem families will have to start worrying about is their loved ones finances.
An expose by nationwide publication, USA Today, found that nursing home thefts are a growing problem. Since 2010 federal and state inspectors cited more than 1,500 nursing homes for the mismanagement of trust funds. Along with thievery, mismanagement also included the failure to protect these trust funds form theft.
Although they are referred to as trust funds, these accounts are actually more like conventional bank accounts for residents. Social security, pension checks, and money from guardians and family are deposited and from there residents can pay for care and incidentals using the trust fund. The accounts are often managed by one single person who takes care of interest accrued as well as account statements.
Unfortunately it is often those who manage the funds that also steal from them. From the USA Today investigation it was found that at least 100 employees were prosecuted and more than a quarter of them had stolen tens of thousands of dollars. At least 10 thefts involved the theft of more than $100,000 and one man had reportedly stolen more than $160,000 from residents.
State and federal inspectors are commonly in charge of checking on residents health and safety, however, the mismanagement of trust funds is often overlooked. According to more than 80 percent of ombudsmen surveyed by USA Today believe that tighter oversight is needed, and that new regulations or better enforcement of old ones is needed as well.
Nursing home thefts can affect both the victim and the nursing home facility as the nursing home will typically cover the recovery of stolen funds not covered by insurance. Some family members testified in one case that the victim was shaken up by the incident.
Nursing home residents rely on staff and management to take care of them, when that trust is shattered it can take an emotional toll on most anyone. Family members who have loved ones in nursing homes should request monthly statements as well as receipts for purchases made on the residents behalf.
If you believe that a nursing home employee is taking advantage of your loved ones trust fund, contact Gordon & Doner at 1 (855) 722-2552 to determine what your legal rights are.