Elder abuse manifests in many forms. Some people are physically abusive toward older adults. Other times, caregivers may engage in emotional abuse where they harangue, insult or intimidate older adults who depend on them for care.
People are often aware of both physical and emotional abuse but may have a harder time recognizing financial abuse. Someone who is living in a nursing home could experience financial abuse that manifests in a variety of different ways. The following are the most common forms of financial abuse that occur in nursing homes and similar long-term care facilities.
The theft of physical property
Older adults often pare down their belongings quite drastically before entering a nursing home. They will get rid of their furniture and most of their personal possessions. A few items with financial or emotional value may be the only things that they take with them other than clothing and toiletries. Jewelry, collectibles and other property are vulnerable to theft by workers at the facility. Care workers might also take cash out of someone’s wallet if they have liquid capital on hand or receive an allowance from their family members every month.
The misuse of financial resources
People tend to notice when specific items, like wedding rings, go missing. They may have a harder time recognizing more furtive forms of theft. Someone caring for an older adult might buy their groceries using their credit card, debit card or checkbook. They might purchase a few items for personal use using an older adult’s resources every time they go to the store. In fact, they might just slip someone’s credit or debit card out of their wallet, copy down the details and then put it back. People will often overlook one or two small charges on a financial account, especially if they don’t regularly see the older adult in question.
Manipulation related to estate planning
The last and most insidious form of financial abuse that occurs in the nursing home involves coercion or manipulation. Workers may try to either bully or guilt individual residents into changing their estate plans. These tactics often only come to light after someone dies and family members discover the inclusion of an outsider in the estate planning paperwork.
Bullying might involve threatening someone, withholding medication or preventing their family members from visiting in the hopes of receiving a portion of their assets or property from their estate. Manipulating someone using guilt could involve telling hard-luck stories and trying to convince an older adult that the care workers manipulating them have more of an interest in their well-being than their family members do.
When family members stay involved in an older adult’s life, they will have an easier time identifying the warning signs of financial abuse. Filing a lawsuit against an individual or care facility can be an appropriate response to financial abuse that affected an older adult’s quality of life and personal resources.