Elder financial abuse is a growing threat and family members should take proactive steps to protect their loved ones. Protecting against financial exploitation requires closely monitoring those who have access to the individual's finances and constant vigilance overbalances and the disposition of assets. When financial exploitation is uncovered, it is imperative to take immediate action to prevent further harm from taking place.
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The Size of the Problem
As of 2010, it was estimated that financial exploitation cost elderly citizens over $2.9 billion per year. In 2016, the problem affected nearly 1 in every 6 elderly Americans. However, both are baseline figures and it is estimated that the problem is much greater than the data suggests because many cases of elder financial abuse are not reported.
Protecting Against Abuse
Nursing homes in the United States are governed by Federal nursing home regulations. These regulations require nursing home facilities to provide access to financial records of patients to the individual or their representative within 24 hours of request. Further, individuals or their representatives have the right to manage all of the resident's financial affairs and can file complaints when the numbers just don't add up.
Nursing home facilities are also required to place all deposits of $50 or more into interest-bearing accounts that are not to be commingled with the facility's accounts or the accounts of other residents. Further, facilities are required to provide quarterly statements to the individual or their representative. One common complaint to be particularly aware of is the fact that nursing home facilities are not allowed to bill patients for expenses covered by either Medicare or Medicaid.
Reporting Financial Abuse
Suspicions of elder financial abuse should be reported immediately. Individual's or their representatives should report their suspicions to the facility administrator, and when applicable, the individual's social worker or Adult Protective Services. Additionally, the Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program can investigate and potentially resolve complaints.
It is also important to file a complaint with the state licensing and certification agency as well as the police. Often, instances of elder financial abuse are not unique and it is quite possible there are numerous complaints against a facility that the authorities are investigating. Simultaneously, individual's should contact a nursing home abuse lawyer to discuss the legal options available in Illinois for recovering the individual's assets.