After placing your loved one in a residential care facility or nursing home, you are probably watching carefully for signs of physical abuse. Bruises, bed sores and other warning signs can let you know if your loved one faces abuse or isn't receiving adequate care in a facility.
However, physical abuse is only one of the issues you should watch for. You should also be aware of the potential for financial abuse, which is far too common for older adults in assisted living facilities, especially for adults with declining mental faculties.
Familiarizing yourself with the warning signs of financial abuse can help you put a stop to it if someone attempts to take advantage of your loved one.
Financial abuse can take several forms
While people may engage in financially abusive behaviors in different ways, the end goal is to unfairly deprive your loved one or your family of assets. In some cases, financial abuse is relatively blatant and straightforward.
Workers at a nursing home could steal items from your loved one. Jewelry, cash, checks and credit cards are all items that unscrupulous workers could take for personal profit. Other times, workers may threaten and intimidate your loved one into handing over items or money.
However, that is not the only way that somebody with regular access to your loved one can engage in financially abusive behaviors. Manipulation is another common strategy. Workers who see your loved one regularly may create a narrative about how difficult their life is and how financial issues hold them back from success and happiness.
Over time, your loved one may feel moved to make a gift to that person or even include them in the estate plan. Some people will even go so far as to attempt to undermine a resident's relationships with family members in the hope of replacing them in a last will.
What can you do to address financial abuse?
The most important thing you can do to address financial abuse and limit its consequences for your family is to notice when it happens. Pay attention to what your loved one tells you. Older adults may attempt to explain the situation to family members. Do your best to keep an open mind and follow up on any complaints your loved one has about attempts at manipulation.
If you noticed that items are missing or that there have been suspicious debit card transactions or cashed checks in recent weeks, you should definitely talk to your loved one about it. If you suspect that staff at the nursing home has engaged in abusive or manipulative behavior toward your loved one, address it with management at the facility as soon as possible. Also make a point of retaining any records regarding questionable financial transactions.
If the facility does not take steps to protect your loved one, you may have to take legal action against the facility or perpetrator, while also potentially moving your loved one to a safer nursing home.