Most fears about moving into a nursing home concern abuse and neglect. After living independent lives on one’s own, it is easy to understand why seniors may wish to avoid moving into a facility where they will rely on others (strangers) for day to day aid. Unfortunately, beyond the physical, emotional, and sexual mistreatment that can occur at these facilities, there is another risk–financial theft.
As the USA Today reported recently, far too many nursing home workers use their position of control to enrich themselves at the expense of the residents in their care. One of the most common crimes is stealing discreetly from nursing home controlled trust accounts. When moving into a home, many seniors have their personal savings moved into trust funds managed by the facility. Yet, without properly oversight, those funds can be raided for personal gain without anyone ever discovering the problem. Even when it is discovered, it is sometimes too late for the senior to get any money returned. According to some advocates, this is a problem that has flown under the radar too long.
The article authors found literally thousands of cases across the United States in the last few years alone where nursing homes were cited by officials for mishandling resident trust fund accounts. If the totals are that high with regard to official citations, one can only imagine how much theft is occurring that is never reported.
Nursing home trust fund theft is hard to spot, because it often occurs over a long-period of time, involving dozens (or hundreds of residents), and can be missed even when examined. In some cases, employees steel hundreds of thousands of dollars in small purchases using many different accounts. Even audits may fail to pick up on the problem, because it requires comparing details across different funds.
Making matters worse, say advocates, is that the perpetrators are often financial or business managers at the facility. One senior rights activist explained, that they’re the only ones at the facility who really know how much money is coming in and going out of these accounts. So these cases can be very difficult to detect — a lot of these people get caught just by happenstance.”
The bottom line is that while Medicaid rule require nursing home to maintain these resident trusts funds like a bank (with interest, insurance, and proper safeguards), many facilities fail to abide by those requirements. With haphazard oversight, there remains a real risk of resident funds being stolen. Be sure to keep a close eye on these details if you or a loved one has one of these funds. Also, consider talking with an elder law attorney for help creating a long-term care plan that minimizes all risks and provides for a happier future.