Although the administrators and staff of most assisted living facilities work hard to carry out their duties with integrity, some steal from the residents. If one of your family members or friends lives in a nursing home or other assisted living facility, watch for these warning signs of theft:
- Questionable financial management. It's often a good idea for a a trusted and unbiased family member or loved one to become an older adult's power-of-attorney. However, if the nursing home handles the resident's finances, there are a few indicators that something may be amiss:
- Unpaid bills despite adequate financial resources
- Unauthorized ATM withdrawals
- Sudden changes in account balances
In some facilities, bookkeepers, office managers and other nursing home staff have been caught diverting Social Security checks, forging signatures, and using written-to-cash checks to cover personal expenses.
- Gifts for caretakers. If your family member living at the facility wants to show appreciation by purchasing a necklace, gift card, or some other item for facility staff, don't panic. But if such gifts seem to be given with increasing frequency and/or monetary value, you may want to learn more about the situation. Unfortunately, unscrupulous caretakers have been known to manipulate residents into giving them expensive gifts, often without the knowledge of family members.
- Missing valuables. Does your loved one have jewelry, artwork, electronics or other valuable assets with them at the facility? If yes, take photographs and keep a written log of the items. If they go missing, you'll have evidence of loss for an insurance claim. In some cases, you may want to demand an investigation.
What to ask to help protect from theft
If you're considering a particular nursing home or assisted living facility for a loved one, ask these questions:
- Does the facility conduct criminal background checks on all employees (not just doctors and other health care professionals)?
- If an employee has been caught stealing in the past, how did the facility handle it?
- Does the facility have written fraud policies and procedures?
- Are those policies rigorously enforced?
Once you've signed the paperwork and your loved one has moved into a facility, make frequent unplanned visits. Keep your eyes and ears open. Besides providing companionship to your loved one, you might also discover early warning signs of theft or fraud.