Protecting Seniors’ Money Held in Trust by Their Nursing Homes

The time has come that the tough decision couldn’t be put off any longer; now it has been made and action taken.

You’re a family caregiver of a senior who has been caring for your aging loved one and helping them live on their own for years in retirement. It’s clear, and maybe even agreed, the situation had to change for their sake.

Over the last couple of years their condition has changed such that they can’t stay at home, even with your help. Maybe it was a fall that made it impossible for them to live without full time care – – or took away the lifelong partner on whom they leaned for even basic daily functions.

No matter why it became necessary, you have moved your senior into a nursing and can rest easy because you both checked out the facility and the people and found it to be a great place. You can be confident they will be safe, comfortable and receiving great care.

Or can you?

Thefts from Resident Trust Funds

Yes, in most cases you can be comfortable your senior loved one is in good hands, especially when you have done the homework needed to check everything out ahead of time. Most people we have encountered working with seniors in nursing homes truly care about the residents with whom they work.

But not everyone.

We have been reading more of late about thefts from the resident trust funds at nursing homes, those accounts where our senior loved ones money is supposed to be safe and ready for them when they need it. Recently USA Today did some investigation of their own and ran a troubling story. They found that inspectors have issued hundreds of citations to nursing homes across the US since 2010 for failing to protect or even improperly managing resident funds.

More than 100 employees have been prosecuted for theft of resident funds. Often those prosecuted are the very people directly entrusted with managing the funds. Worse, that may just be the tip of the iceberg. It’s acknowledged that this is a difficult crime to detect, with the thieves often only getting caught when they make a mistake.

We wouldn’t be surprised, too, if many times the crime goes unreported even when caught by nursing homes who would rather dismiss an employee quietly than allow their lapse in oversight to become public.

Steps to Protect Seniors’ Money

If theft or mismanagement is uncovered, seniors’ funds are typically protected under the nursing home’s insurance obligation. That’s if the loss is uncovered.

As with many aspects of care, the attention of family members may be the extra level of oversight needed to fully protect your senior loved one. These are some of the steps family caregivers can take.

  • When screening nursing homes up front, look out for any record of lapses in their management of residents’ funds. Look for signs that regulators or law enforcement officials have found irregularities or even theft.
  • As part of your visits to nursing homes in your decision process, ask administrators how residents’ funds are managed and oversight is performed.
  • Urge your senior loved one to review their funds records regularly to assure all purchases reflected are really theirs. Even where there is no theft involved, fund managers may apply purchases from another resident in error.
  • From time to time when visiting your senior at the nursing home, walk through the records of their account with them. When the records reflect purchases of items that aren’t consumed right away, check to see if your loved one still has those items.

Help your senior loved one – as well as their nursing home – protect the money that is theirs. Chances are you won’t find anything wrong but it’s nice to know you can confirm that’s the case.

Remember, most of the staff you encounter working at your senior’s nursing home are caring and honest people. Unfortunately, though, the relative few who aren’t can cause real problems.