There comes a time in life when we dread getting older and the consequences that come with it. One such consequence is the need to have others responsible for your care. That’s why nursing homes are around; they care for you in your time of need and offer 24-hour assistance. But this level of care comes at a cost.
Whether you are arranging long term care for someone else or you are handling your own care, you should be aware that nursing homes can not only charge you for their services, but they can also insist on managing your finances. This presents the risk of financial mismanagement and wrongdoing.
The Nursing Home Reform Law of 1987 was created to protect certain rights of individuals in nursing homes, and the financial rights fall under this law. The Older Americans Act of 2006 defines financial elder abuse as fraudulently using an older individual’s funds, assets, or property.
Before admitting your loved one into a nursing home, an admission contract must be signed on behalf of the potential resident. This admission contract is a legally binding document that conditions the nursing home and resident’s relationship. It is by law that this document specifies the services offered by the facility in exchange for the resident’s payments. This admissions agreement can either help you, or hurt you and your family if not read carefully. Most nursing homes use this letter as another way to sign over rights and waive the resident’s rights to arbitration. If there was ever a time to carefully examine a document before signing it, this is it.
For example, the way some nursing homes work in handling the residents’ finances is by creating a trust for each resident. This may be presented to the potential resident as a requirement during the process of admissions; but this is a voluntary decision. Trust accounts are not mandatory and a resident, a guardian, or power of attorney, have the exclusive right to deny the option of a “trust account.” This is a way to deposit funds received by the resident. This is meant to be treated as a bank account, where bills are paid and deposits are made.
Nevertheless, where money and the vulnerable are involved, there is a chance of theft and financial abuse of such funds by nursing homes. Therefore, when something feels off, it is better to investigate, rather than ignore. When admitting someone into a nursing home, the best way to keep an eye on their finances is to look for “red flags” by the nursing home. Some examples include:
- Cashing a resident’s checks without their knowledge
- Encouraging a resident to sign a document against their will
- Forging a resident’s signature
- Notice of missing personal belongings
- Unexplained transfer of money to another individual
- Unexpected withdrawals by another individual without permission
This is not an exhaustive list, but it is a list that should be taken into consideration when admitting a loved one into a nursing home.
To prevent elder financial abuse, it is best to research the nursing home admission; put an extra protection on the account; and use automatic billing and direct deposits into the account. Elder abuse cannot be completely prevented, but concerned adults can take the right steps to lower the risk of such abuse and keep their loved ones protected from afar.