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Nursing Home Residents and Their Families Need to Be Aware of Thefts

Late last month, USAToday.com posted an alarming article that we thought we would recap in our nursing home abuse blog. The article reports that according to an investigation by USA Today, thousands of residents at nursing homes and other long-term care facilities across the country have had money taken from their savings or their trust fund accounts have been mismanaged by the facilities who are handling these accounts.

An example used at the beginning of the article explains how an administrator at a Mississippi facility knew something was amiss when she saw a receipt for a $90 pair of designer jeans paid for through a resident’s trust fund — only that resident had both his legs amputated.

According to the article, most facilities will maintain a trust fund for a resident who requests that the home handle their money. These trust funds work like a bank account, with regular statements being issued as well as accrued interest. But according to USA Today’s investigation, more than 1,500 cases were found where state and federal regulators cited nursing homes for not handling funds properly. The article explains that there could be even more cases where the perpetrators have not been caught.

In the article, a senior assistant attorney general from South Carolina’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit is quoted as saying, “I do think there’s an oversight issue. There aren’t alot of safeguards in the system.” Another example that was given in the article involved a nursing home business manager who was caught forging checks from a resident’s account after she dropped one of the checks in the parking lot. Another worker found the check and reported it to the facility. It was found that the business manager had taken $50,000 from the resident’s funds.

Some other highlights of the USA Today investigation included the following:

State and federal regulators have issued more than 1,500 citations since 2010 for facilities that have mismanaged trust funds or failed to protect them from theft
More than 30% of those prosecuted involved thefts of tens of thousands of dollars or more. Nearly 10 thefts involved $100,000 or more
Federal regulations require any nursing home that participate in Medicare or Medicaid to maintain trust funds, but they do not require any regular audits
Nursing home surveys and inspections are often done by state health department, but overseeing residents funds aren’t always on their radar. Nurses and nursing aids often must be licensed or certified by the state, but those who are responsible for handling the residents’ trust funds don’t have any requirements.

The article emphasizes that awareness is key. Senior vice president of the American Health Care Association alerts resident that they “should be getting regular statements (for trust accounts), and the more that family members can watch these funds and be aware of what’s happening with their loved ones, the better.”