Feds Take Steps to Protect Elderly from Financial Exploitation

Financial ExploitationWashington, D.C. – Lawmakers in Washington were shocked by revelations, brought to light by an a investigation by USA Today, which showed rampant mismanagement of nursing home resident’s trust funds. And now lawmakers are pushing for increased oversight of these funds.

According to USA Today, Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) sent a letter to Marilyn Tavenner, administrator of the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, urging the agency to require additional oversight of resident trust funds including annual audits of account to detect any theft or fraud and additional training for investigators.

“USA TODAY’s article … revealed an alarming number of cases involving unscrupulous and dishonest employees of nursing homes who siphoned, forged and swindled millions of dollars from the trust fund accounts of unsuspecting and helpless residents,” Nelson wrote in his letter.

Currently, there is no law requiring regulators to review resident trust funds.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) was also alarmed by the report and issued a statement which urged federal and state regulators to work together and solve the oversight issue.

Nursing home residents can request that the long-term care facility they live in manage their money for them. This is especially helpful for residents who suffer from dementia or who are disabled and are not capable of managing their money.

The USA Today investigation turned up numerous cases in which tens of thousands of dollars were embezzled from resident accounts, usually by administrative or office staff.  The money was used to pay personal bills, fund extravagant shopping sprees and gambling sprees.

Financial exploitation costs seniors billions of dollars each year.

After the USA Today report, at least four states have moved to make review of resident trusts funds a duty of state regulators, but there are some states that still have no such requirements.

As the aging population increases—it’s expected to double over the next decade—it will be increasingly important to have regulations in place to better protect residents of long-term care facilities.

In most of the cases exposed by USA Today, employees at nursing homes detected the thefts and reported the individuals, but there are likely thousands of cases that go undetected.

The paper also found 1,500 cases in which nursing homes failed to pay residents interest on their trust funds or failed to pay insurance premiums on those accounts that would ensure the residents were reimbursed if their accounts were raided.

Financial exploitation is the fastest growing form of abuse American seniors face, according to the National Adult Protective Services. Only 1 in 44 cases of financial abuse are reported. This type of abuse can cause depression, loss of trust in others and loss of security. Some seniors become financially destitute and are unable to replace those assets. Seniors also become dependent on social services. They are often unable to secure the money needed to hire a nursing home abuse attorney and recover their stolen funds. We need more laws that protect these vulnerable adults from this type of exploitation.