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Financial Exploitation and Theft From The Elderly is Also a Form of Abuse

S. Baker Yates
Baker Yates is an attorney practicing in Memphis, TN handling personal injury and wrongful death cases
Posted on Nov 05, 2013

Nursing home abuse is one of the most unfathomable crimes.  Elderly victims are often left vulnerable due to physical or mental incapacities, and those that prey upon them represent some of the worst members of society.  When most people think of nursing home abuse, they envision physical abuse or neglect.  However, in Tennessee, the financial exploitation and theft from the elderly is also a form of abuse.  Elderly nursing home residents are particularly vulnerable to financial exploitation by nursing home staff and outside intruders.

This past summer, a Clarksville, Tennessee resident with a lengthy criminal record for theft and burglary was arrested and charged with nursing home theft.  The nursing home involved is the Uffelman Estates nursing home.  The facts of the case are as follows: a nursing home resident noticed her Kindle and wallet missing.  The resident suffers from dementia and figured she had forgotten the items somewhere.  Later that day, however, the resident’s bank called to notify her several items had been purchased using her bank card.  The resident called the police who realized her prescription pills were missing as well. 

The next day, a local resident reported several items missing from her vehicle, including her son’s backpack.  Joshua Atwood, who was being questioned on an unrelated charge, was found to be in possession of the backpack and the missing items from the nursing home.  He was arrested and charged with six counts of identity theft, aggravated burglary, and vehicular burglary.  In addition to the criminal charges against Atwood, the nursing home resident who was financially exploited could have a civil case for nursing home abuse. 

Three years prior, a licensed practical nurse was arrested for stealing prescription medication from nursing home residents.  The former LPN neglected and abused several residents, in addition to stealing medications from medication carts throughout the facility.

A recent USA Today investigation into elder financial abuse found more than 1,500 cases in which nursing homes were cited for theft or mismanagement of resident trust funds.  Nursing home residents often rely upon the nursing home to manage their money placed in special trust fund accounts.  These residents frequently have lost the ability to manage their own funds.  Theft or mismanagement of such funds constitutes a form of elder abuse.  Tennessee was among the states found to have nursing homes in which resident funds were mismanaged. 

The USA Today investigation revealed several important factors concerning financial exploitation of nursing home residents.  The study found that most deficiencies in the handling of resident trust funds involved inadequate accounting, failing to provide the residents with access to their money, and failing to pay interest.  The actual thefts from resident trust funds were often hefty-- at least 10 of the 100 thefts investigated exceeded $100,000.  One former nursing home office manager, Judy C. Putman, was accused of taking in excess of $350,000 from the Waxahacie, Texas nursing home where she was employed.  She received a 10 year suspended prison sentence for her actions and was ordered to pay over $38,000 in restitution.

If you or a loved one has been the victim of nursing home abuse, including financial abuse and exploitation, it is vital you consult with a knowledgeable Tennessee licensed nursing home abuse attorney.  The attorneys at Bailey & Greer have provided compassionate, dedicated representation to the victims of nursing home abuse throughout the state of Tennessee.  We understand the emotions and heartache involved in a case of nursing home abuse or neglect.  At Bailey & Greer, we strive tirelessly to see our clients receive the justice they deserve.  Call us today (888) 470-9143 or locally at (901) 680-9777 to speak to one of our knowledgeable nursing home abuse attorneys.