Report Uncovers Huge Problem of Financial Elder Abuse

As More Seniors Move into Assisted Living and Nursing Homes, Financial Elder Abuse is On the Rise

financial elder abuseAlthough senior citizens have always been susceptible to financial elder abuse from family members or caregivers, as more elderly patients move into nursing homes, institutional financial elder abuse is becoming a much bigger problem.

“These (residents) are vulnerable; the nursing home is supposed to take care of them,” says Phyllis Foster, 67, whose 89-year-old mother-in-law had funds embezzled by Martin. “I was surprised there wasn’t more oversight.”

A report in USA Today highlights the seriousness of the issue. Many nursing homes are private institutions, and there is little government regulation, especially on the federal level. According to USA Today’s report, in many cases, the finance administrators at nursing homes are responsible for cases of financial elder abuse.

“These crimes are clearly crimes of opportunity,” the office of Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said in written responses to questions. “The last thing (nursing home residents) should have to worry about is getting ripped off by the very people they’ve entrusted with their care.”

“I do think there’s an oversight issue … There aren’t a lot of safeguards in the system,” says Ken Moore, a senior assistant attorney general in South Carolina’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, which has prosecuted at least a dozen trust fund theft cases in recent years.

“A lot of these cases involve an office manager or a business or finance manager, and they’re the only ones at the facility who really know how much money is coming in and going out of these accounts, Moore adds. “So these cases can be very difficult to detect — a lot of these people get caught just by happenstance.”

The USA Today investigative article found that lax oversight allowed financial abusers to operate for months, and sometimes even years. Although federal regulations require nursing homes to participate in Medicare and Medicaid to maintain trust funds for their residents, those same rules do not mandate regular and independent audits. Some states have imposed such regulations, but many have not, and even in cases where there are required audits, staff shortages mean that financial elder abuse can still go undetected for too long.

The article also revealed that, among 100 prosecutions of former employees, more than 30% of those convicted stole tens of thousands of dollars at least. At least 10 thefts exceeded $100,000.

While many states have departments that deal with elder abuse and nursing home oversight, most of the focus is on quality of care and preventing physical abuse and neglect. There is little focus on financial elder abuse regulations.

“Most businesses have regular audits. That should just be part of a nursing home’s regular operating costs,” says Robyn Grant, head of public policy and advocacy at the National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care, a residents’ advocacy group. Grant says the failure to require audits even when surveys pick up other problems with trust funds is especially troubling, given those errors could be signs of trouble.

“I do think there’s often a failure to properly oversee the business offices in these facilities,” says Moore, the assistant attorney general in South Carolina.

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

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