When a person becomes a resident at a nursing home, he or she must place a great deal of trust in the staff at that facility. They are responsible for each resident’s shelter, feeding, clothing, and administration of medication. These staff members also are responsible for the management of resident’s money in numerous instances. Many patients in nursing homes have trust accounts that are used to pay for everyday needs and continuing care. There are staff members who have the duty to access these accounts and use them for this purpose. However, there are times when staff members will use resident’s money to make purchases for themselves and others. One recent nationwide study reveals the widespread nature of this financial abuse.
At a convalescent care facility and affiliated nursing home in Vicksburg, Mississippi, an administrator discovered that a staff person had made more than $100,000 fraudulent purchases charged to patients and residents’ accounts, according to a report in USA Today. After turning this information over to law enforcement, the staffer, Lee Martin, pled guilty to multiple counts relating to exploitation of vulnerable adults. As this recent report demonstrates, this type of nursing home resident abuse is running rampant.
This particular trust account manager was caught because a diligent administrator realized that a resident who had both legs amputated would not likely purchase a pair of designer jeans. The scheme was sophisticated enough that had the administrator not been as careful as she was in double-checking patient purchases, the thieving staff person may have continued to take advantage of vulnerable residents for many years to come.
This study turned up similar stories of financial abuse of the elderly across the country. The trust fund accounts are set up much like a traditional bank account and are regulated by state and federal law. The abuses that took place include egregious misuse of funds, like the one at the Vicksburg facility, where employees stole hundreds of thousands of dollars for personal items, gambling expenses, and shopping sprees. However, the financial impropriety also included failure to report and pay interest and a lack of adequate insurance to insure that the entrusted funds were secured against theft and other forms of loss.
There are almost 16,000 nursing homes in the United States. Federal oversight is supposed to be provided by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which was unable to comment on the USA Today report because of the federal shutdown. However, other state officials do acknowledge that the misappropriation of trust fund accounts is a serious, and increasing, problem that does not get the attention it deserves from nursing home managers and state and federal regulators.
One of the reasons that this type of financial abuse does not get discovered more often is that nursing home inspections often focus on the physical treatment and care of the residents. Audits and reviews of financial improprieties and misappropriation have not been allocated the resources necessary to protect residents from this type of abuse. Based on the widespread nature of these bad acts, it clearly should be a priority going forward.
When a loved one is placed in the care of a reputable establishment, there are always concerns about the level of care that he or she receives, but worrying about a trusted staffer stealing money necessary to pay for ongoing care is not at the forefront of most peoples’ thoughts. If a loved one has suffered from financial abuse, or any other neglect or harm while a resident at a nursing home, the hardworking and dedicated attorneys at Bailey & Greer are ready to provide the help that you need. Call us toll free at 877-819-4414 to schedule a free and confidential consultation where we can discuss the facts of your case and determine the best possible legal strategy. At Bailey & Greer, we are small enough to care, big enough to fight, and experienced enough to win.