Generations at Columbus Park
If you have a loved one residing in assisted living, you have probably considered the possibility of them being abused or neglected by unethical caregivers. It’s not an unrealistic concern, considering 1 in 3 nursing home residents will suffer abuse or neglect at some point in their residency. Nursing home abuse also comes in many different forms, such as physical, sexual, and mental.
However, many people forget about the risk of financial abuse in nursing homes. Usually when we hear of financial abuse or exploitation of the elderly, we hear stories of crime rings scamming unsuspecting seniors or family members manipulating a relative into handing over assets and changing their will. If you weren’t aware, however, financial abuse is possible in nursing homes too.
Anyone who has access to financial information or funds can abuse an elderly person’s trust, and this includes nursing home staff. If precautions are not taken, staff may be able to access residents’ bank account information on the facility’s computers to steal money or identities. Sometimes facilities hold money for residents, which is another route staff may exploit. And of course, theft of physical money or other valuables is not uncommon in nursing homes.
Unfortunately, many thieves feel emboldened in elder care facilities where residents may have impaired cognition and memory. It’s easy to assume a dementia patient, for example, merely misplaced their money or never had the money they think is missing in the first place. Or staff might ask an easily confused resident to sign a check to them, telling them it’s part of what they owe the facility.
Staff are also more likely to get away with theft or fraud because so many employees access a facility’s computer system or enter residents’ rooms each day. This makes it difficult to determine who committed the offense and discipline them or prevent it from happening again. Furthermore, when residents or families agree to share the responsibility for handling the resident’s financial obligations and accounts, it can be easier to hide unusual or extra charges.
If you have never heard of nursing home financial abuse before, you may be wondering now how to protect your family member from it happening to them. Levin & Perconti is glad to share our insight with you.
As we’ve worked with nursing home abuse victims over the years, we’ve learned that elder care facilities with the highest Medicare ratings and cleanest health inspection reports are usually safer and more trustworthy when it comes to the quality of care they provide. They tend to practice good hiring policies and safety procedures that prevent most instances of abuse. Thus, we encourage families to seek out these kinds of nursing homes when a loved one needs assisted living care.
To help you do this,Levin & Perconti is glad to share information from medicare.org on our website for individual Illinois nursing homes, such as The Austin Oasis, so you can more easily compare the facilities in your area.We also share tips on how to protect your loved one from abuse in assisted living. It’s our goal to reduce financial abuse and all types of abuse in nursing homes by educating families and individuals.
About The Austin Oasis
901 South Austin Blvd
Chicago, IL 60644
The Austin Oasis is a large facility with 216 beds. Facilities in the Oasis network offer nursing and rehabilitation services, transitional care, and physical, occupational, and speech therapies.
Medicare gives The Austin Oasis a disappointing Below Average rating overall, due to its Much Below Average quality measures rating, Below Average staffing rating, and Average health inspection rating.
In addition to comparing Medicare ratings, you should also read recent health inspection reports for further insight into the quality of care found at a nursing home.Below is a sample of the deficiencies found at The Austin Oasis.
12/13/2018 Failure to provide and implement an infection prevention and control program. The facility failed to follow the standard of infection control practices while caring for three residents. One resident’s urinary catheter tubing was observed touching the floor. A second resident’s catheter drainage bag was seen on the floor. A third resident had dirty clothes in a bag in their closet instead of in the appropriate laundry bag.
12/13/2018 Failure to make sure that the nursing home area is safe, easy to use, clean and comfortable for residents, staff and the public. The facility failed to provide a sanitary and comfortable environment on its 4th floor for the 52 residents residing there. A tour of the facility found peeling wall paint, peeling baseboard tiles, a urinal full of urine, and urine on the floor. A housekeeper was observed using the same mop head from a bathroom in multiple other rooms
12/13/2018 Failure to have a policy regarding use and storage of foods brought to residents by family and other visitors. The facility failed to have a policy regarding use and storage of food brought to residents by family and other visitors to ensure safe and sanitary storage, handling, and consumption. A resident’s in-room refrigerator was noted as not being low enough for safe food storage. When questioned, an administrator revealed they do not have an established policy on how to store food in resident’s rooms.
12/13/2018 Failure to procure food from sources approved or considered satisfactory and store, prepare, distribute and serve food in accordance with professional standards. The facility failed to follow its policy to label food, to document chemical concentrations of dish water and dishwasher, and to follow its policy regarding refrigerator and freezer temperatures. A number of food items were unlabeled as to what they were and when they were opened or would expire. Staff admitted to not knowing how to test dish sanitizing water for the right chemical concentration. The facility was also not monitoring its refrigerator and freezer temperatures. All of these deficiencies put all residents at risk for food-borne illness.
Protecting a Loved One from Financial Abuse
Levin & Perconti believes the best way for families to prevent a loved one from being financially abused is to place them in a responsible facility that follows best practices for hiring qualified staff and protecting residents. It takes some work to find such a facility though. We suggest thoroughly researching prospective nursing homes using information found on medicare.org and other websites, as well as the resources provided by local and state government agencies.After that you can tour the most promising facilities to see what they are like in person before picking the best one.
Your work doesn’t end there, however. The real job of protecting your loved one begins once they’ve moved into a nursing home. Even the best facilities have a chance of hiring an abusive caregiver, so it’s up to you to continue to protect your relative and their finances. In many ways you can do this the way you protect your own finances, by only allowing trusted family access accounts and using the bank’s alert system to spot any suspicious activity while remaining vigilant yourself.
In addition to typical secure banking practices, here are some specific ways to further protect a nursing home resident from exploitation or theft:
- Use automatic bill paying systems and direct depositing to limit the handling of cash or checks.
- Don’t use money management services offered by the nursing home facility.
- Visit your relative regularly to reduce the chance of being victimized.
- Work with your relative to limit and track the amount of cash they carry.
- Keep superfluous valuables in a safe place outside of the nursing home.
- Pick a safe hiding spot for money and valuables in your relative’s room that only they and you know about.
- Talk to your relative about not sharing financial information with or giving money to caregivers.
- Discuss never signing anything without a family member present.
Depending on your loved one’s cognitive abilities, you may have to make some firm ground rules with them about how much freedom they have with their own money. It’s much too easy for staff to take advantage of trusting or easily confused residents. However, always remain sensitive and respectful when you discuss how to handle your relative’s money so that they know they can trust you.
Reporting Nursing Home Financial Abuse
Nursing home residents must usually rely on the help of friends and family to recognize and report abuse, but this may feel daunting. You may feel prepared to do so if you see signs of physical or mental abuse, but you should also know how to report financial abuse as well. This means knowing the signs of financial exploitation and who to report it to.
These signs can vary, but usually start with any unusual account activity or someone who is not family making a change to documents. For instance, if there are sudden changes to your relative’s will or someone at the nursing home suddenly claims to have authorization to access your relative’s account, those are red flags of manipulation. Other signs include unexplained transfers or withdrawals by non-family members, frequent checks written to a caregiver, or any unusually large withdrawals.
Theft of cash and other valuables can be difficult to prove, but if these or other personal belongings habitually go missing, that’s a sign something is wrong. Your relative may also begin displaying troubling behavior, like suddenly being reluctant to discuss finances with you, getting defensive about their money management, or expressing fear of caregivers.
If you see any of these signs or others of financial exploitation, act quickly. You may need to cancel credit cards or otherwise restrict access to your loved one’s funds temporarily. You definitely need to speak with someone in charge at the nursing home, such as the facility administrator, a staff supervisor, or other similar manager. They should have a procedure to follow for residents or their representatives to submit grievances and keep you informed of their investigation.
To help their investigation, provide documentation to back up your claims so the facility has all necessary details. They should investigate and make every effort to rectify the situation, as well as report it to the correct authorities. Unfortunately, abuse often occurs when a facility is being mismanaged, so be prepared in case the nursing home fails to follow proper protocol for dealing with abuse. If you run into this, don’t hesitate to seek outside help. Your family member’s doctor, your local long-term care ombudsman, or the state licensing agency should be able to help.
Be aware that nursing homes have a legal responsibility to prevent and appropriately handle all kinds of abuse, including financial abuse. If your relative’s nursing home has failed in their duties to protect them from financial exploitation or other abuse, you may have a legal case against them. To find out if you do, seek advice and representation from a nursing home abuse law expert, such as the attorneys at Levin & Perconti.
Levin & Perconti Can Help
If you believe you might have a nursing home abuse case, you’ve come to the right place. The attorneys at Levin & Perconti have handled hundreds of cases of nursing home abuse and neglect.
Levin & Perconti are nationally recognized leaders in nursing home abuse law. We can help you determine if you have a case against an Illinois nursing home and what your next steps are. Our experience and knowledge of Illinois law can help you win the resolution and restitution you seek. To get started today, click or call Levin & Perconti at 888-424-5757 for a free consultation and learn more about how we can help you.
Disclaimer: The above health inspection findings are taken from public records kept and published by Medicare and the state of Illinois and are not complete. Levin & Perconti cannot confirm that this page’s content includes the latest information available. Any corrections or additions made to these public records after publication of this page will not be found here. For the most up-to-date information, visit www.il.gov or medicare.gov. This page is a legal advertisement and informational resource for visitors and is not endorsed by the named facility or any government agency. Levin & Perconti does not have any affiliation with the named facility.
Not only were they so professional but also so caring and thoughtful. It was very difficult going over the facts in our mother's case but they were so compassionate and understanding and allowed us to be with them every step of the way. We were able to sit in on the depositions and we were really able to see how hard they worked on our behalf.