In bad economic times, people do things they would normally never do. Crimes against the elderly skyrocket. Theft, in particular, becomes an even greater problem both in society and also inside a nursing facility.
If you have a friend or relative in a nursing home, you need to be vigilant to be sure they are not thevictims of one of the many different types of theft that are typically committed against the elderly.
When we think of theft, we think of different things. There are several different types of theft that takes place in nursing homes, and you should try to be familiar with all of them.
The most obvious thefts are item based. Thieves will steal jewelry, electronic devices like iPods or portable media players, or other expensive personal items.
Detecting and protecting against this kind of theft is the easiest. Document each piece of jewelry or expensive item. Photographs are highly recommended. A small safe with a combination lock can be purchased to offer a greater level of protection inside the hospital, hospice, or nursing home.
Be careful, though. A key safe isn’t likely to be very effective. Under the effects of medication, thieves can stealringsfromfingers and chains from around necks. Lifting a key from an unconscious person is relatively easy for even the most amateur thief.
Unfortunately, family heirlooms cannot be replaced for any price. Keeping items with strong sentimental value off-site is the only way to protect them from loss.
Financial theft is the manipulation of a resident’s financial accounts. Often, residents in nursing homes have an annuity or a pension. Thieves who can manipulate a resident into surrendering control of their personal finances can steal tens of thousands of dollars from their victim.
By offering to “deposit” checks for the victim, thieves can persuade their victims into literally handing over their entire income. All the while, the victim thinks their bank account is being replenished. A thief who can convince several different residents with the same scheme can walk away with a fortune.
Everyone wants to keep their financial Independence as long as possible, but the elderly are a group aggressively targeted by thieves inside a nursing home as well as outside. Look to set up a direct deposit where no physical check is being sent directly to the nursing home.
Also, try to check the balances on the account as often as you can. It’s a sensitive topic that needs to be handled with tact. Offer to assist with balancing a check book, or take your resident to the bank and allow her to physically make the deposits in person.
Often nursing home residents need to be medicated. In a hospice, where most of the residents are experiencing end-of-life care, the prescribed medications can be powerful and expensive. Make sure that your loved one is getting the medications he or she is being prescribed.
Try to be present when the medications are being distributed and make sure you are familiar with who will be dispensing the medications to your resident.
The best advice I can offer you is this: listen to your resident. Even if they are suffering from the effect of Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia, they still will have moments of clarity. As a personal injury attorney who specializes in all kinds of nursing home abuse, I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard a family member say the words “We thought it was all in his (or her) head.”
Don’t forget about the ombudsman. In all nursing home facilities there must be information posted informing residents who the local long term care ombudsman is. These individuals can be extremely helpful.
Investigate all claims of abuse and theft and report them to the administrators of the facility. Follow up by telephone and in person. Nursing home abuse, I’m sad to say, is rampant. There is a good chance that there is, at least, some truth to what your resident is telling you.
Barry G. Doyle is a personal injury lawyer in Chicago and the founder of the Law Offices of Barry G. Doyle, an Illinois nursing home abuse and neglect law firm dedicated to representing nursing home residents and their families.. If you or a loved one has been killed, injured or suffered neglect in a nursing home in Chicago, please order your free copy of A Family’s Guide to Nursing Home Lawsuits in Illinois. It’s full of helpful information that will help you protect your legal rights and is free to all Illinois residents.