You might hope and expect that skilled nursing facilities would do everything possible to safeguard residents, not just physically and emotionally but also financially. Such is not the case. Last Friday, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the District of Columbia announced a criminal complaint against a business office coordinator of a skilled nursing facility in Washington DC. The complaint alleges that the employee forged signatures to withdraw $7,400 from residents’ managed accounts. In so doing, the employee was charged with a criminal complaint in violation of D.C. Code § 22-933.01, Financial Exploitation of an Elderly Person and Financial Exploitation of a Vulnerable Adult.
Last December, the Administrator for a Mental Health Community Residential Facility was charged with using the account of a resident, a 73-year-old Veteran, to pay more than $1,500 of her personal bills. The case is currently pending.
Separately, a caregiver pled guilty to making $235 of personal purchases on a debit card belonging to a profoundly disabled 61-year-old man.
How can we help mitigate elder financial abuse in nursing homes?
Such examples are the tip of the iceberg. They are especially disturbing because the victims of the crimes are residents of facilities that should be protecting, not financially exploiting, the elderly. Bad enough that residents of facilities receive sub-standard care, are regularly neglected, and are left vulnerable to infectious diseases by greedy nursing home operators who value profits over lives. Worse still, families of residents need to guard against potential financial abuse from nursing home administrators and direct caregivers.
According to a State investigation, in Wisconsin alone, an estimated $25 million was stolen from seniors in facilities last year.
Thousands of seniors are being scammed out of their money by people who should be protecting, not exploiting them. The caregivers probably think that the seniors won’t miss the funds and that they are too small for anyone to care or notice. Such crimes will continue to be unreported and underreported unless families become more involved and demand to see residents’ financial statements in nursing homes.
Vigilance is the only protection our seniors have against abuse, neglect, and fraud. They deserve no less.
Attorney Wendy York of York Law Firm specializes in prosecuting elder abuse, nursing home abuse and wrongful death cases in California. If you or a loved one is in need of legal assistance please contact Wendy York today.