Newark, NJ- A new bill introduced by Assemblyman Ron Dancer would give nursing home residents in New Jersey added protection from financial exploitation and assure that the facilities are held accountable when a resident’s funds are misappropriated.
Dancer’s legislation comes in the wake of an in-depth report which showed that theft of nursing home trust funds is prevalent. The lack of oversight has made it easy for nursing home administrators to embezzle funds from resident’s personal bank account to the tune of millions.In New Jersey there are 28 incidents of misappropriation of funds in the state’s long term care facilities.
The USA Today story uncovered incidents in which nursing home staff accessed resident accounts and withdrew money for their personal use. These unscrupulous individuals are able to get away with plundering resident accounts because these accounts are rarely audited.
“It is not unheard of that unscrupulous individuals employed by the nursing home or the provider itself improperly access a patient’s finances and misuses or depletes someone’s savings. Periodic audits will help protect the assets of nursing home residents and hold those accountable who exploit an elderly person,” Dancer said.
In one case from Vicksburg, Mississippi, one embezzler was caught when another officer worker noticed receipts for purchases that the resident would never make. The resident was a double amputee, but receipts attached to his account showed a purchase for designer jeans. This was a huge red flag for the officer worker who soon uncovered that one of their employees stole over a hundred thousand dollars from 83 resident accounts.
Assembly member Dancer’s legislation addresses this lack of oversight by requiring that resident accounts are regularly audited by state officials with no prior notification to that facility, according to the New Jersey Observer.
“Protecting and caring for the elderly includes ensuring their finances are not vulnerable to unprincipled individuals or facilities,” stated Dancer. “Periodic and unannounced examinations of a nursing home’s records will help in the effort to curb this abuse. Additionally, the bill requires that all due care be exercised to preserve the confidentiality of the records and the privacy of the resident.”
In addition to unannounced audits, the facility along with the thief or both would be held accountable if resident funds are misappropriated.
Current law requires that any nursing home staff member who witnesses abuse, neglect or financial exploitation to report their claims to the Office of the Ombudsman for the Institutionalized Elderly. But there is no state or federal requirement that resident trust fund accounts are audited regularly to detect financial exploitation, Dancer’s legislation would change that on the state level.
Physical and financial abuse of the elderly is a great concern; the elderly should be protected but our laws are not keeping up with the many ways these vulnerable adults can be harmed or exploited. If Dancer’s legislation is passed, New Jersey will be making a bold step to uphold the rights of nursing home residents in the state which will hopefully inspire lawmakers in other states to take the same measures.