Nursing home abuse can take many forms: physical, emotion, and sexual abuse are a few examples. With some types of abuse, there are physical signs, such as bruises, torn or soiled clothes, or deteriorating health. However, other types of mistreatment are harder to detect. One of these is financial abuse where there are no physical signs of any trouble. Sadly, this form of abuse can go on for long periods of time, and nursing home residents may not even be aware that it is happening.
What Is Financial Abuse of Nursing Home Residents?
Financial abuse is the improper or illegal use of an elderly resident’s funds, assets, or other property for someone else’s benefit. Financial abuse can involve much more than stealing from the resident. Some examples include:
- Cashing the resident’s check or depositing it in a bank account without the person’s permission.
- Forging the person’s signature.
- Stealing the resident’s money or possessions or using them without permission.
- Deceiving or coercing the person to sign legal documents, such as a mortgage, deed, or will.
- Engaging in identity theft.
- Convincing the person to invest in a pyramid or other investment scam.
- Fraudulently being appointed as the resident’s agent on a power of attorney or as his guardian or conservator.
- Improperly using powers to handle the resident’s finances through a power of attorney, guardianship, or conservatorship.
Who Is at Most Risk of Financial Abuse?
Perpetrators of financial abuse can be nursing home staff, other residents, friends, and even other family members. Elderly residents who are physically unable to take care of themselves or who are suffering from conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease or dementia are more vulnerable and likely targets. They may not even realize the financial abuse is occurring. Some residents may be so dependent on their caregiver that they fear more abuse and retaliation if they speak out. Other risk factors include:
- Being isolated
- Being lonely
- Being disabled
- Being unable to understand or handle one’s finances
What Are the Warning Signs of Financial Abuse?
If you suspect that your family member is being financially abused, you can and should take steps to investigate your suspicions. Talking to your loved one about his finances or possessions can result in you discovering who the perpetrator is and what is going on. You may also want to review bank accounts and other financial accounts. Here are some signs that your family member is being taken advantage of:
- Unexplained large withdrawals or an excessive number of smaller ones from a bank or other investment account.
- Changes to your loved one’s legal documents, such as a will, deed, power of attorney, or financial account holder forms.
- Disappearance of large funds, other assets, or valuable property like jewelry.
- Confusion over your family member’s ownership of accounts or property.
- The inability of your loved one to pay bills and other expenses he has paid in the past.
- Suspicious bills, such as credit cards, that your loved one never had or unusual expenses on his credit cards.
- Disappearance of personal property.
- Forged signatures on checks or other legal documents.
Once you discover that your loved one is being financially abused, you must take steps to stop it. If unauthorized loans or credit cards were opened in his name, you will need to have the accounts closed. You may need to dispute unauthorized charges on your family member’s credit card if they were made by the perpetrator of the abuse. In addition, you may need to reverse fraudulent transfers of property and remove the perpetrator as an agent on a power of attorney or as an authorized user on any other accounts. If property, cash, or other assets were stolen, you will most likely want to report the crime.
None of this is easy, and you may discover that the financial institutions you contact do not voluntarily reverse the disputed transactions. You need the assistance of an experienced elder abuse & neglect attorney who can help you stop the abuse, reverse the fraudulent transfers, and pursue your loved one’s claim for compensation for his financial losses and psychological trauma.
Fill out our online form today to schedule a free consultation to learn about your legal options and how Brauns Law can help you enforce your family member’s rights.