Across the country, nursing home staff members have been embezzling from client trust funds in nursing homes. USA Today reports that many individuals have singlehandedly withdrawn or otherwise accessed amounts well over $100,000.
This nursing home abuse problem offers a glaring example that while state and federal government may regulate nursing homes in many regards, there are not strong enough protections in place for residents’ money and valuables.
In one case, an employee at a Mississippi nursing home was found to have billed more than $100,000 in personal items from 83 different residents in two homes. Administrators say initial audits didn’t uncover the fraud because receipts were submitted for each item. But what finally caught one administrator’s attention was a look at what items were bought. Red flags included designer jeans, designer sport jackets, Ugg boots, and makeup. These items were all billed to personal trust accounts.
Nursing homes are often responsible for overseeing residents’ trust funds, so families of residents are right to wonder how this could happen. Most nursing home providers are required to maintain these accounts for residents who request them. The facilities are supposed to handle the money like deposits in regular bank accounts – tracking and paying accrued interest, providing regular statements, and maintaining reliable oversight.
Sadly, USA Today’s research found more than 1,500 cases where state or federal regulators cited nursing homes for mishandling residents’ funds. According to the data, which came from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, “most ‘deficiencies’ involved failing to pay interest, inadequate accounting, or not giving residents proper access to their money.”
In many cases, nursing home line staff or even administrators access residents’ accounts to buy personal items. In other cases the issue is more one of mismanagement, where the homes don’t calculate interest, fail to purchase the required insurance for loss or theft, or don’t keep proper account records.
There are two pieces of good news in this area. First, more states’ attorney generals are taking a closer look at nursing homes’ accounting methods. Second, where there is theft or improper account management, the nursing homes are on the hook to refund the money. This is because they’re required to insure the funds (whether they actually do or not).