Elder abuse doesn’t only happen in physical form. Financial abuse is a big problem in nursing homes, but isn’t always noticeable.
Financial abuse doesn’t always have obvious warning signs, but these are common ones to look out for:
- Unusual or unexplained withdrawals from bank accounts.
- Forged signatures.
- Changes to wills or deeds.
- Unexplained disappearance of assets, like stocks or bonds.
- Missing Social Security or other disability checks.
Losses don’t stop at the money— victims of financial abuse are often stripped of their independence and left with emotional distress.
Who Would Do Such a Thing?
It’s upsetting to think that nursing home staff would steal money from residents. The truth is, though, that anyone close to a resident could steal their money. Family members or close friends could end up stealing from them under the guise of “trying to help.”
Many nursing home residents grant power of attorney (POA) to someone close to them, especially if their mental health is in decline. POAs keep track of the residents’ day-to-day financial affairs and, if not chosen carefully, are in a position to easily take advantage of the resident’s money.
Residents and families should make sure the POA is capable of responsibly and honestly managing the resident’s finances.
Congress Passes Elder Abuse Prevention and Prosecution Act
Congress passed the Elder Abuse Prevention and Prosecution Act on October 18, 2017, enabling the federal government to treat instances of elder abuse and exploitation more harshly.
The Act requires the U.S. Department of Justice to:
- Elect an Elder Justice Coordinator in all federal judicial districts.
- Train local and state governments on the prevention of elder abuse, and the treatment of the victim and prosecution of the abuser if a crime should occur.
- Provide training to FBI agents on the investigation of said crimes.
- Collect and report data relating to elder abuse crimes.
In addition, the Act requires the Department of Health and Human Services to support any legal proceedings for elder rights, in the form of providing grants.
It’s our hope that this new act will better protect our elders from financial exploitation.
For a free legal consultation, call 800-934-6555
Preventing Elder Financial Abuse
Families should be the eyes and ears of nursing home residents, watching for any signs that may indicate elder financial abuse.
One way to protect your elder’s assets is to create a system of checks and balances. Assign two or three people to be in charge of one part of the elder’s finances. This system gives each person some measure of influence over the others when it comes to making decisions. This way, if someone tries to make a hasty or unwise decision, the others would be able to have a say in whether it’s a good idea to go through with, or not.
Another idea is to set up automatic bill paying and direct deposit systems for the elder. With no middleman touching the money, it eliminates the chance of money going missing.
Reporting Suspected Abuse
Reporting financial exploitation is required in some states, as it may violate several criminal laws. Even if it’s not mandatory, it’s a good idea to report financial abuse to local law enforcement as soon as it’s suspected.
Federal law (42 U.S.C. 1320b–25) requires long-term care facilities that receive at least $10,000 in federal funding to report suspected crimes against residents to state and local law enforcement no later than 24 hours after forming the suspicion. If the victim has visible bodily harm, the window drops to just two hours. Failure to comply can result in fines of up to $300,000 and exclusion from further federal funding.
Call Your Chicago Nursing Home Abuse Lawyers
Pintas and Mullins has been providing invaluable assistance to nursing home abuse victims and their families for over 30 years. Not only we understand the intricacies of elder abuse laws, but we know how to use the legal system to hold the negligent party accountable for the harm they have caused.
If you or a loved one has been the victim of financial abuse in a nursing home, contact us for a free, confidential consultation today. We assist clients in all 50 states.