Vicksburg, MS- Residents of nursing homes have to put a lot of trust in the staff and administrators of the facilities where they live. These residents entrust these facilities to take care of their needs and often oversee their money.
When a person enters a nursing home, they have the option of allowing the home to control their money. A trust fund is set up in the patients name and acts much like a bank account with checks and monthly statements. Because the patient has requested the facility take care of their funds they are at risk of having that money stolen from unscrupulous nursing home employees, who primarily work in the business offices.
In an in-depth investigative report, USA Today profiled five people prosecuted for embezzling hundreds of thousands from nursing home residents. The embezzlers were from facilities all over the country and though they have stopped and punished, it shows how easily nursing home residents
In their report, the paper profiled an office administrator for two long-term care facilities in Vicksburg, Mississippi who used patient accounts to buy to designer jeans, make-up, Ugg boots, and other personal items. The woman Lee Martin even used the patient funds to pay her household bills.
Martin was caught when another office worker realized the expenses were charged to patient accounts for the things the patients would never buy. For instance, the designer jeans were purchased on the account of a resident who was a double amputee.
In total Martin managed to steal 101,000 from 83 different resident trust funds. In 2012, she was arrested for exploitation of a vulnerable adult and plead guilty in August of this year.
The list of nursing home employees who steal could go on. USA Today found that between 2010 and the present, state and federal inspectors issued more than 1,500 citations to facilities for mishandling trust funds or failing to protect residents from theft.
Martin targeted resident accounts that were not being monitored by their family members and she was able to cover her tracks by including receipts for purchases. She was able to get away with for almost a year become there is very lax oversight for trust fund accounts.
The thefts can often go on for years since nursing homes are not required by federal law to conduct regular audits of trust fund accounts. The majority of oversight for nursing homes are geared towards the health and safety of the patients, which is a good thing, but financial exploitation is rife and just as damaging.
Although the residents will reimbursed for the money that was stolen since nursing homes are required to insure trust funds, the patients lost something more important; they have lost trust in their caregivers.
Taking advantage of or abusing seniors or disables persons is wrong, but it happens to an alarming degree. When a person has faced financial, physical or sexual abuse or neglect in a long term care facility, a nursing home attorney can allow them to take action and hold that facility or abusive individual accountable for the harm caused to a vulnerable adult.