The desire to give your aging loved one the best golden years possible could lead to the decision to place them in a residential care facility like a nursing home. If you simply don't have the time or personal resources to provide around-the-clock care to your loved one, relying on other people to provide that care can be a good solution for your family.
You will want to be actively involved in the process of choosing a nursing home facility, as well as monitoring your loved one's experience while there. You, no doubt, already know that nursing homes pose some risk of physical and emotional abuse, as well as neglect.
You will probably be on the lookout for signs of physical, sexual and psychological abuse. What you may not be wary of is the potential for financial abuse.
What is financial elder abuse?
In general, financial abuse involves turning money into a weapon that allows an abuser to control or punish someone else. However, elder financial abuse is particularly insidious because it preys upon people who are already in declining health or who may not have the cognitive resources to realize someone else is actively abusing them.
Elder abuse of older adults sometimes looks like theft. It can involve taking money, valuable assets or even checks from a patient in their care or someone they meet in a nursing facility. It could also look like intentionally developing a bond with someone and manipulating them with sad stories in order to secure a position in someone's estate plan or last will.
The second kind of financial elder abuse is particularly insidious because it effectively turns someone's best intentions against themselves. They may want to do good with the assets they have left and believe that their family members may not benefit as much as the stranger who has manipulated them into trusting their story.
Your loved one may warn you of financial abuse
Some people are quick to write off tales told by their loved ones in nursing homes. They may believe that the story has been subject to exaggeration or hyperbole as a means of creating a sense of guilt in the family that placed them in the nursing home.
Even if you suspect as much, you should treat any complaint, especially of potential abuse, as serious and honest. Imagine how you might feel if you overlooked complaints of manipulation or financial abuse, only to discover later that they were true.
If you do have reason to believe that your loved one has been the victim of financial abuse by nursing home staff, you should inform the facility, document your concerns and make plans to sit down with an experienced elder law attorney as soon as possible.