Financial Abuse and Exploitation in Nursing Homes

Financial exploitation of a resident is one of the many ways in which a senior can be abused while under the care of a nursing home. Stories are not uncommon of elderly patients being swindled out of their life savings by a professional caretaker or nursing home employee.

There are many forms of financial abuse, most of which are difficult to detect and may go on for years. In order to protect yourself or a loved one from financial exploitation and abuse in a nursing home facility, it is important to know the types of financial abuse and the warning signs to look out for.

Financial exploitation or abuse is the unlawful or improper use of a senior‘s assets, funds, or property. This type of abuse can take many forms and can range from the theft of pocket change and personal belongings to the appropriation of a senior‘s home and bank accounts.

In some cases, the senior is unaware of the situation; in others, the elderly patient is manipulated into giving away their property, possessions, and money. Sometimes it will involve a one-time theft of a possession in the resident‘s room, while other times a staff member builds a relationship for years in order to gain control of the patient‘s savings accounts or convince the resident to change their will in their favor.

Other examples of financial exploitation include staff members cashing residents‘ welfare, social security, and other checks without authorization; gaining power of attorney over the resident; and forging a patient‘s signature in documents and contracts. In many cases the staff member will use deception, coercion, threats or manipulation to gain control over part or all of a resident‘s finances. As our seniors are in an extremely vulnerable position, especially when residents of a nursing home, it is important to be vigilant for warning signs that a love one is being financially exploited.

There are several red flags that may indicate that a nursing home resident is being financially exploited or abused. Obvious signs include forged signatures on important documents or checks and the sudden disappearance of valuable possessions. Other forms of financial abuse are more difficult to identify. These include sudden, unexplained, or frequent withdrawals from a bank account; the appearance of new names on the resident‘s bank signature card; frequent, unusual withdrawals with the resident‘s ATM card; and new loans or mortgage contracts. Other signs to look for are recent changes to a resident‘s will, deeds, or trust; the provision and payment of unnecessary services; and unexplained disappearance of funds.

There are several things that a family member can do if they suspect elder abuse of any kind, including financial exploitation. A first step should be to verify the story with the resident and gather the pertinent documents and records. If there is a danger to the safety of the resident, consider removing them from the facility. If it clear that a crime has been committed, it is always important to inform the police and district attorney and file a complaint with the Adult Protective Services Division of the New Mexico Aging and Long Term Services Department.

Discovering and reporting financial exploitation of a nursing home resident can be complicated. It is important to seek out the assistance and guidance of those charged in the state with the protection of elders. There is no reason to suffer or allow your loved one to suffer alone at the hands of an abusive or exploitative facility or staff.


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