Financial Elder Abuse through Trust Funds is Too Common

Former Nursing Home Worker Charged with Financial Elder Abuse Through Trust Funds

trust fundA nursing home administrator at a skilled nursing facility in Tonkawa, Oklahoma, was charged with financial elder abuse through trust funds on Tuesday, July 15th.

Roberta Donaldson, 67, a resident of Enid, OK, worked as the administrator for the Willow Haven Nursing Home in Tonkawa. Per the probable cause affidavit, on June 9th, Donaldson told the nursing home’s receiver that she wanted to purchase four brown leather recliners for the facility’s common area.

That same day, a fund holding residents’ personal money in trust of the nursing home was emptied, a loss of $1,691.69. None of the residents or their family members were consulted before the purchase was made, the affidavit stated.

When asked about the large purchase four days later, Donaldson insisted that purchasing the brown leather recliners was the intended use of the trust fund. An investigation by the Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit found that Donaldson also claimed that family members had given her permission to use those funds for that purpose.

Four residents specifically were targeted, and each had $422 withdrawn from their nursing home trust accounts.

On Wednesday, July 16th, Donaldson spoke to the press, insisting that she would never intentionally commit financial elder abuse, or do anything else to harm the residents.

Trust Funds at Nursing Homes Are A Target for Financial Elder Abuse

An investigation conducted by USA Today shows that trust funds at nursing homes become the targets for perpetrators of financial elder abuse at many facilities across the country.

The problem begins with lack of background checks. Many nursing homes do not require stringent background checks for administrative staff, despite the fact that these employees work around a vulnerable population, just as much as nurses and nursing assistants at nursing homes do. The investigation revealed at least 20 states that do not require thorough background checks for admin staff.

The investigation further revealed that theft from trust funds at nursing homes is disturbingly common. Thousands of residents across the country, who need the money in case of an emergency, had their funds pilfered by business managers, bookkeepers, and other staff. This financial elder abuse is far too easy to commit, because the accounts are not required to be audited, so the theft can go unnoticed for months, or even years, before the resident needs access to their money only to find that it is gone.

“Obviously, this is a problem that should be addressed, and obviously it’s one that hasn’t been addressed very well,” says Janet Wells, former director of public policy for the National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care.

Many states require nursing homes to purchase Patient Trust Surety Bonds to cover any theft from the trust fund. Still, getting reimbursement can take some time, and in the meantime, the financial elder abuse can seriously harm the resident.

The Strom Law Firm Defends Senior Citizens against Financial Elder Abuse

If you or a loved one has been the victim of financial elder abuse or exploitation by your care facility, nursing home, caregiver, or a relative, contact us today.
 Come in for a free consultation with one of our nursing home abuse and neglect lawyers to discuss your situation and hear how we can help. 803.252.4800

Leave a Reply