State authorities fined a Connecticut nursing home for allegedly allowing their staffers to steal money from the residents. According to The Connecticut Post, the nursing home did not even report the thefts when they became aware of their staffer’s criminal conduct. The thefts are part of a broader elder abuse problem in the nursing home industry. According to a USA Today report, nursing home facilities frequently lack safeguards and appropriate oversight that could prevent their resident’s money from being easily stolen by staffers.
In Connecticut, state authorities are trying to crack down on the problem. At Westport Rehabilitation Complex, the state agency responsible for nursing home oversight fined the facility $8,000 after an investigation revealed that 20 residents had money stolen from their resident trust funds. Commonly, nursing homes manage the finances of their residents through facility-controlled resident trust funds. Legally, the nursing home is responsible for managing and investing the savings of each resident’s trust account. Despite this legal responsibility, financial abuse of the elderly can run rampant in some facilities. At Westport Rehabilitation Complex, withdrawal documents from several of the stolen trust accounts are covered in white-out. A grand total of $3,161 was stolen from residents at the Connecticut nursing home. When reached for comment, Westport Rehabilitation Complex said the felonious staffer was fired.
Unfortunately, stealing from nursing home residents appears to be a nationwide problem. USA Today reports that more than 1,500 cases of theft have been reported in just the last year. The national newspaper says these cases varied wildly – from small, one-time thefts to embezzling hundreds of thousands from vulnerable senior citizens across the country’s nursing homes. A lack of sufficient oversight is generally to blame, according to Ken Moore of South Carolina’s Medicaid Fraud Unit. Moore told USA Today, “I do think there’s an oversight issue… There aren’t a lot of safeguards in the system.” Describing how thousands can be stolen, Moore says, “A lot of these cases involve an office manager or a business or finance manager, and they’re the only ones at the facility who really know how much money is coming in and going out of these accounts.”
According to USA Today, these thefts can often go on for months and even years before the criminal is caught. States rarely audit nursing homes and most state agencies focus on health and safety violations at nursing homes. Consequently, a lack of internal controls at the nursing home is compounded by a lack of regulatory oversight at the state level. Insufficient oversight is not the only problem for nursing homes. According to Moore, most nursing homes do not even have sufficient insurance to cover any money stolen by their staff. In these tragic circumstances, a nursing home resident could have money stolen from them for months or years and never have their money returned to them by the nursing home. America’s elderly deserve much better and nursing homes must do a better job of protecting their residents from financial abuse.
The attorneys at the Law Offices of Thomas L. Gallivan, PLLC work diligently to protect the rights of nursing home residents. Please contact us to discuss in the event you have a potential case involving neglect or abuse.