In previous posts, we have discussed the types of abuse that take place in U.S. nursing homes, as reported to the National Ombudsman Reporting Service. In this final chapter of our series on nursing home abuse, we will focus on one of the most often overlooked and least discussed types of abuse: financial exploitation.
According to data from the NORS as reported by the National Center on Elder Abuse, seven percent of complaints against nursing homes in the U.S. are due to the financial exploitation of patients. However, the actual number of abused residents is believed to be much higher.
The New York State Office of Children and Family Services reports that financial exploitation occurs when an adult’s property, funds or resources are improperly used by another individual. This can occur due to embezzlement, fraud, conspiracy, false pretenses, forgery, coercion, falsifying records, and withholding an elderly patient’s access to their own assets. While most cases of financial exploitation are carried out by a family member, there are many cases in which caregivers are the perpetrators of these crimes.
It may initially be difficult to tell the difference between disorganized record keeping and financial exploitation. When exploitation is occurring, the offending parties often isolate their victims to ensure that their actions are not disclosed to friends or family. They may also prohibit their victims from freely speaking for themselves or making important financial decisions without their input. In some cases, victims may not understand what is happening or may show confusion or concern about missing funds. Victims may also be unable to remember signing paperwork or initiating certain financial transactions. Those who witness these signs should immediately contact law enforcement authorities and the local Ombudsman to begin an investigation.