Every year thousands of nursing home residents suffer the pains and indignities of abuse and neglect at the hands of their caregivers. The ways that residents are mistreated are innumerable, with most causing them physical and mental harm. One form of abuse that is often overlooked, however, is theft.
Most people would agree that theft is wrong on any level, but many might be surprised to learn it can be a form of abuse. But theft is in fact a form of financial abuse when perpetrated by a caregiver against a dependent person. While it does not cause harm to their person, it can be emotionally harmful for a vulnerable resident to lose valuables when they have already lost so much along with their independence.
Nursing home residents do not have the freedom to keep many personal belongings with them when they move into assisted living, so it can be extremely distressing when something they value goes missing. Unfortunately this is a common accident in facilities with lots of staff and residents going in and out all day long. But when an item is purposely taken from a vulnerable senior with no intent to return it, that is especially damaging.
Nursing home staff steal many items from residents, from valuables like money, jewelry, or medication to personal things like clothing, toiletries, and keepsakes. Their motives may be the same as any thief, taking valuables for their own use or because an easy opportunity arose. They may also do it to take out their frustrations on residents as a form of retaliation and blowing off steam.
Whatever the reason, there is no excuse for theft in nursing homes, and nursing homes have a legal obligation to prevent theft by performing thorough background checks on employees, holding regular training sessions about the effects of theft on residents, and enforcing strict protocol for reporting and dealing with theft.
Given the frequency of nursing home theft, however, you may be wondering what you can do yourself to prevent this from happening to a loved one in assisted living. Levin & Perconti is here to tell you that it all starts with what facility you pick for your family member. In our experience, abuse of all kinds is much less likely in nursing homes with high Medicare ratings and good health inspection reports. These facilities seem to take resident well being seriously and follow good practices that keep residents safe.
To help you find such facilities, Levin & Perconti shares information from medicare.org on our website for individual Illinois nursing homes, such as Heritage Square, so you can more easily learn about the facilities in your area. We also share tips on how to protect your loved one from abuse in assisted living. This way we hope to help you reduce financial abuse and all types of abuse in nursing homes.
About Heritage Square
620 North Ottawa Avenue
Dixon, IL 61021
Heritage Square is a small, not-for-profit facility with only 27 beds that offers a continuum of care from independent housing to a skilled nursing unit and physical therapy.
Medicare gives Heritage Square a perfect Much Above Average overall rating. This comes from Much Above Average ratings for quality measures and staffing combined with an Average health inspection rating.
Medicare also publishes health inspection reports to give families further insight into the goings on at individual nursing homes. Belowis a sample of the deficiencies found at Heritage Square.
7/26/2018 Failure to honor the resident’s right to a dignified existence, self-determination, communication, and to exercise his or her rights. Staff failed to ensure a resident was clothed from the waist down while in the dining room during meal time. A resident was observed in the dining room during supper in her wheelchair with a blanket over her lap. Part of her thigh and buttocks were visible and bare. A CNA confirmed the resident was wearing no pants or undergarments. The resident had spilled food on her lap earlier and staff had removed her soiled clothes but not redressed her because they were in a hurry to return to the rest of the residents.
7/26/2018 Failure to honor the resident’s right to voice grievances without discrimination or reprisal and the facility must establish a grievance policy and make prompt efforts to resolve grievances. The facility failed to promptly resolve a grievance. A resident’s family member complained multiple times that the medication he provided to the resident was not being used. There was no documentation of the grievance or resolution at the time of the health inspection.
7/26/2018 Failure to develop and implement policies and procedures to prevent abuse, neglect, and theft. The facility failed to implement their policy for misappropriation of resident funds by not reporting or initiating an investigation into an allegation of resident’s missing money. A resident and family member reported that money had been taken from her wallet. An administrator admitted there was no abuse investigation underway, nor had the theft been reported to the authorities. This is against facility abuse policy.
Protecting Your Relative from Financial Abuse
Besides doing your due diligence in researching and picking a safe nursing home for a family member, there are measures you can take to secure your loved one’s finances and prevent theft and exploitation when they enter assisted living.
Start by working with other family members to pick a trusted, responsible relative to hold power of attorney and guard your senior loved one’s assets. They will be responsible for working with your loved one, according to their abilities, to make financial decisions and to watch their accounts for them in case anything ever looks strange.
To help monitor a family member’s accounts, set up any alerts available through their financial institutions that detect suspicious activity. It’s also a good idea to take advantage of automatic bill payment systems and direct deposits to reduce the need for paper checks or handling of money, which can easily be forged or lost. Sometimes nursing homes offer services to handle bill payments, trust funds, and other financial services. Avoid these as much as possible, as they all provide access to a resident’s finances that can be easily abused.
Finally, discuss safe money practices with your loved one to the extent that their cognitive abilities allow. Devise a way to keep track of how much cash they have on their person so they and trusted family know they have what they need and can detect if any goes missing. Decide what valuables they want with them and which ones you can keep safe outside of the nursing home. You might also pick a spot in your loved one’s nursing home room to hide money and valuables. Depending on your family member’s personality, you may also want to discuss with them why they should not give money as gifts to caregivers or sign anything without discussing it with family first.
Reporting Financial Abuse
Often it is up to family or friends to report abuse of a vulnerable nursing home resident, which is why it is important that you be involved in your family member’s life after they move to assisted living. Whoever holds power of attorney for your senior relative or is in charge of their financial accounts should spend some time becoming familiar with those accounts and assets so they can spot signs that something is amiss.
If you ever suspect a nursing home staff member is financially abusing your loved one somehow, act immediately by reporting any unusual activity to your relative’s financial institution so they can restrict access to affected accounts, then contact the nursing home. By law, they should have a procedure in place for residents or their representatives to submit grievances like this. Follow that procedure as well as alert an authority figure like a staff supervisor or the facility administrator.
They should respond to your concerns with an investigation and report the possibility of fraud or theft to the proper authorities. They should also take measures to prevent such an incident from happening again. If they fail to follow their procedure for handling abuse, however, or fail to protect your loved one from further harm, you can seek help elsewhere, such as from a doctor, long-term care ombudsman, or state licensing agency. These people can help you sort out issues you run into with a negligent nursing home.
There’s also the chance you may need legal counsel. Nursing homes are legally liable when it comes to preventing and reporting abuse. If a nursing home fails in these responsibilities and you or a family member come to harm, you may have reason to take them to court.
Levin & Perconti Can Help
If you or a family member have suffered abuse at a nursing home, Levin & Perconti are here to help. Our attorneys have handled hundreds of cases of nursing home abuse and neglect.
Nursing home abuse of all kinds are heartbreaking for victims and their families. You need expert guidance at this time. Levin & Perconti understands what you’re going through and have the expertise to set things right. We will fight for your rights and help you win the resolution you desire like we have for hundreds of other clients who also suffered at the hands of Illinois nursing homes. If you’re ready to get the help you need, click or call Levin & Perconti at 888-424-5757 for a free consultation and more information.
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.