When most people think of nursing home abuse, they imagine a resident who is being neglected or physically assaulted. However, financial exploitation can be just as harmful.
Seniors Make Easy Targets for Financial Scams
The elderly are considered prime targets for unsavory individuals looking for a quick payday. Roughly 70% of the wealth in the United States is owned by people over the age of 50, which means that seniors have substantially greater savings than younger individuals. Seniors are also more likely to lack an understanding of modern technology, which means they are less likely to use real-time methods of monitoring their assets.
Forms of Financial Abuse
Financial abuse includes a wide range of actions intended to misappropriate the victim's income or assets. For example:
- Forging checks to purchase items for personal use
- Forging signatures on titles or deeds
- Stealing jewelry, cash, or other valuables
- Using deception to obtain power of attorney
- Engaging in investment or insurance scams
- Engaging in identity theft
Financial abuse is most often perpetrated by someone the victim is close to. In cases involving nursing home residents, this might include:
- Family members
- Close friends
- Nursing home staff members
- Other nursing home residents
The perpetrators of financial abuse are often dealing with substance abuse, mental illness, personal debt, or recent stress. However, this is no excuse for taking advantage of a senior's trust.
Uncovering Financial Abuse
Despite the effects financial abuse can have on a senior's quality of life, financial exploitation of nursing home residents often goes unreported. In fact, the National Adult Protective Services Association estimates that just 1 in 44 cases of elder abuse involving financial exploitation is reported to the proper authorities. Reasons for this include:
- The victim suffers from mental illness or cognitive impairment.
- The victim trusts the person committing the abuse.
- The victim is embarrassed or ashamed of being victimized.
- The victim still cares about the perpetrator and does not wish to see him punished.
- The victim is simply unaware of what has happened.
Uncovering financial abuse of your loved one may take some detective work. Signs to watch for include:
- Out of the ordinary transactions on bank statements
- Overdue bills
- Missing checks
- Missing possessions
- Transactions a senior is unaware of or can't explain
- Inflated charges for routine services such as maintenance on a property the senior still owns
- Abrupt changes made to a senior's will
- Additional names added to a bank account signature card
- Lack of basic provisions for daily living such as toiletries or appropriate clothing
- Reluctance to talk about financial matters that were once considered routine
- Isolation from friends and family
Financial abuse often occurs alongside verbal abuse, physical abuse, medication theft, or neglect. However, it is important to keep in mind that a resident can be a victim of financial abuse even if no other types of nursing home abuse have occurred.
Preventing Financial Abuse
Preventing financial abuse of an elderly loved one can be difficult, but the following measures are often viewed as good safety precautions:
- Set up automatic bill pay for living expenses.
- Use direct deposit for checks.
- Visit your loved one regularly to watch for changes in mood or behavior that could indicate a problem.
- Carefully review qualifications of anyone providing nursing care.
- Consider hiring a geriatric care manager to oversee the complete care of your loved one, including managing his finances.
Seeking Legal Assistance
If you believe your loved one has been a victim of financial exploitation or other forms of nursing home abuse, contact an attorney immediately. A skilled attorney can help determine what forms of abuse have occurred and decide the best way to proceed. For example, if someone has fraudulently obtained power of attorney, your attorney can help revoke the power of attorney and take steps to make sure that a senior's assets and savings are returned. Punitive damages may even be awarded in some circumstances.
The legal team at Neblett, Beard & Arsenault is committed to protecting the interests of Louisiana's vulnerable seniors. Contact us online or call us directly at 318.588.6303 to schedule your free consultation.