Seniors living in nursing homes can easily become the targets of thieves and fraudsters. As the elderly age and their capacities decline, they are vulnerable to all types of abuse. While the popular perception is that the abuse of seniors is primarily physical and emotional, there are different types of abuse that seniors face.
The problem is even more pronounced in nursing homes. Financial abuse in nursing homes is unfortunately all too common, notwithstanding regulations that are aimed at preventing it. When that happens, a nursing home financial abuse lawyer can help file a nursing home abuse lawsuit to recover what was lost as well as assist families in taking steps to make sure that the abuse does not happen again.
Abusers and Thieves Target Vulnerable Elderly Victims
There are approximately 1.3 million residents in U.S. nursing homes. Many of these residents suffer from dementia or other forms of cognitive decline. This makes them more vulnerable to financial abuse since they can no longer manage their own affairs. Where, in the past, they would have asked questions, they may no longer have the ability to understand financial complexities. These seniors trust the people assigned to take care of them and are easy targets for a fraudster. Even though the seniors are in nursing homes, these residents are still not completely safe as nursing home staff have sometimes preyed on the facility’s residents.
A 2009 study revealed that financial abuse in nursing homes costs residents approximately $2.6 billion each year. Since the study was conducted, the overall amount has most likely increased. The true costs of the problem are likely not known since many scams and manipulations that target seniors go unreported or undetected by government agencies.
Who Protects Seniors From Financial Abuse?
There are federal regulations that govern how nursing homes must handle the assets and funds of their residents. Nursing homes must stringently document residents’ personal assets and funds down to the penny. Federal regulators will comb through ledgers and receipts for individual residents on every single expenditure. In addition, each state will have its own laws and regulations that will govern how the nursing homes care for and look after their residents.
Nursing homes undergo an inspection on behalf of the federal government once a year, and nursing homes can be cited and fined for any financial violations. Nursing homes must keep meticulous records of anything having to do with their residents’ finances, and even the slightest discrepancy can catch the attention of the inspectors. Nursing homes have been cited for seemingly minor mistakes and issues in handling resident funds.
Nonetheless, financial abuse in nursing homes is still a widespread problem regardless of the safeguards designed to mitigate the issue. Unscrupulous staff members can take advantage of seniors who trust them unquestionably and by the time abuse is discovered, these staff members may have already absconded with the senior’s money.
Types of Nursing Home Financial Abuse
One of the most common forms of financial abuse in nursing homes is the threat of action against a resident for an unpaid bill. Nursing home residents are presented with the bill and told that they will be evicted from the nursing home if the bill is not paid. In some instances, nursing homes evict the residents and leave them to fend for themselves with limited funds and resources. Patient discharge is one of the more egregious examples of financial abuse. Residents can be discharged from a nursing home, but it must be done in accordance with strict rules. Nursing homes must take care not to cause seniors emotional distress in the process.
Another common form of financial abuse is pressuring the senior to sign a document or some kind of power of attorney. Sometimes immoral nursing home staff try to convince seniors to either change their will or enter into some kind of agreement. Untrustworthy caregivers have sometimes been responsible for these acts. When this happens, a nursing home financial abuse lawyer can seek to hold the nursing home facility responsible for any damages incurred.
Other types of nursing home financial abuse in Maryland include:
- Stealing or misappropriating money from a resident
- Refusing to give residents access to their money when they need it
- Forging a resident’s signature
- Cashing a resident’s checks without proper authorization
- Coercing or tricking a resident into signing financial documents
Failing to monitor or supervise how residents are spending their money when they are engaging in self-destructive behavior
Warning Signs of Elder Financial Abuse
Fraudsters and scammers view seniors as easy prey. Residents of nursing homes are at a high risk of theft since they are away from their families and loved ones. To protect yourself or a loved one, it is crucial to know the warning signs and what to do if they appear.
Some of these warning signs include:
- No memory of financial transactions
- Bank account is missing funds
- Unexplained withdrawals
- Unusual credit card transactions
- Missing credit cards
- Unpaid bills and collection letters
- Fraudulent signatures
- Sudden changes to a will or other financial documents
- Personal possessions are missing
- Additional authorized users on the senior’s credit card
- Changes in behavior such as increased sadness or anxiety
As soon as warning signs such as these are discovered, immediate action should be taken. If you suspect financial abuse is occurring in your loved one’s nursing home, you should first report your concerns to the nursing home’s administrative staff. Additionally, families may also want to contact local law enforcement to investigate the situation, report the abuse to the state’s elder abuse hotline, and/or speak with an experienced elder abuse lawyer to learn about filing a nursing home financial abuse lawsuit.
How Can a Lawyer Help?
Financial abuse in nursing homes is legally actionable just like any other kind of abuse that elders may suffer in a nursing home. A nursing home financial abuse lawsuit could cover any one of a number of different damages. Here are some of what may be recovered in a nursing home financial abuse lawsuit:
- The return of the money and/or property itself
- Damage from any type of emotional distress resulting from the abuse
- Punitive damages against the nursing home
Who is Liable For Financial Abuse in Nursing Homes?
One important factor to remember is that financial abuse in nursing homes is not just limited to nursing home staff. Many types of abuse, such as physical abuse and sexual abuse, could be committed by other residents. A nursing home financial abuse lawyer will advise that it does not matter whether or not the abuse was committed by staff members. The nursing home where the senior lives is responsible for preventing all types of abuse within its facility no matter who commits it.
Many nursing home financial abuse lawsuits have found that nursing homes were responsible when it was another resident committing the abuse on the grounds that the nursing home failed to prevent foreseeable abuse. Thus, even if the senior has been swindled by their roommate, the nursing home may still be liable.
Another important consideration to note is that the list of defendants will always include the nursing home as opposed to the actual person who committed financial abuse. The nursing home has significantly greater assets and carries liability insurance. Lawsuits against other nursing home residents will most likely not yield enforceable judgments.
Protect Your Loved Ones From Elder Financial Abuse
Family members need to continuously be on the lookout for any signs of nursing home financial abuse. The signs of physical and sexual abuse are easier to notice. To help prevent financial issues, families should monitor their loved ones’ expenditures on a frequent basis and question anything that seems suspicious. Any large transfers of money or any pattern of transactions should be checked, and anything that seems amiss should be investigated.
Nursing homes have an ombudsman who can possibly help with these issues, but many problems are systemic and deep-rooted. For families who suspect that their loved ones have been taken advantage of, a nursing home financial abuse lawyer is a must. The attorney can help in several different respects, including the following:
- An attorney can help break or terminate contracts or agreements that the senior has signed.
- A nursing home financial abuse lawyer can help file a lawsuit against the nursing home where the abuse occurred.
- An attorney can help structure the senior’s finances to make sure that this type of abuse does not happen again.
Contact a Maryland Nursing Home Financial Abuse Lawyer
The elder abuse lawyers at KBA Attorneys can help families and seniors who have been the victims of nursing home financial abuse. They can help ensure that this does not happen again, along with taking legal action to right the wrong that has occurred.
The law firm’s skilled team is committed to helping the elderly with any type of nursing home abuse. KBA Attorneys will conduct a thorough investigation into the financial exploitations that occurred and determine the best legal options available for recovering lost assets.
Call today or fill out an online form for a free case evaluation.
- U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. “Nursing Homes”, U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, https://www.cms.gov/Medicare/Provider-Enrollment-and-Certification/CertificationandComplianc/NHs.html. Accessed June 19, 2019.
- Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. “Protecting residents from financial exploitation: A manual for assisted living and nursing facilities”, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, https://files.consumerfinance.gov/f/201406_cfpb_guide_protecting-residents-from-financial-exploitation.pdf. Accessed June 19, 2019.
- National Institute on Aging. “Elder Abuse”, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/elder-abuse. Accessed June 13, 2019.
- National Center on Elder Abuse. “Types of Abuse”, Administration for Community Living, https://ncea.acl.gov/Suspect-Abuse/Abuse-Types.aspx. Accessed June 13, 2019.