You may have heard of the rampant neglect and abuse cases that occur in a surprising number of nursing homes. If you have a loved one in a nursing home facility, it’s likely that you are watchful and on the lookout for any signs of harm. But did you know that there’s another type of nursing home abuse that doesn’t leave marks or signs on your elderly family member’s body? Elder fraud is a type of abuse perpetrated against our most vulnerable population. In 2021, there were 92,371 known victims of elder fraud, including nursing home trust fund abuse. An estimated $1.685 billion dollars was lost in elder fraud scams between 2017 and 2021.

How can you protect an aging loved one from this type of invisible abuse in nursing homes?

What is a Nursing Home Trust Fund?

Many nursing homes offer their residents the option of opening a trust fund at the facility in order to pay for incidental and miscellaneous expenses for long-term residents such as hair styling, clothing, and items from an on-site store. These funds may also pay outside bills and expenditures. Residents and their families rely on the nursing home administrators to properly maintain and safeguard these funds.

No nursing home can require its residents to set up a trust fund account, but many offer it as a convenient way for elders to access funds. Some of these accounts earn interest on their deposited amounts over $50 and function very much like a bank account.

When a resident deposits money in a nursing home trust fund, they retain full ownership of their funds. In no way does this money belong to the facility. The resident and/or their financial representative must have full access and the administration is responsible for tracking and accounting for every deposit, charge, and withdrawal. Sadly, some residents find that their money has diminished or disappeared altogether due to caregivers within the facility misappropriating their funds.

What Are the Signs of Nursing Home Trust Fund Abuse?

If your elderly family member has a nursing home trust fund it’s important to know how to watch for this type of abuse just as you are careful to protect them from other forms of abuse. Watch for the tell-tale signs that your loved one’s trust fund has become the target of misappropriation and fraud including the following:

  • Your loved one’s account shows a sudden increase in small, unexplained charges or an increase in withdrawals and transfers
  • Your loved one has fallen behind on bills or payments for medications, grooming products, and other expenditures
  • One or more staff members may show an unusual interest in the loved one’s account and may offer explanations for expenditures that don’t fit with the resident’s typical spending habits
  • The loved one’s account is not accruing interest
  • The resident doesn’t recognize charges on the account or withdrawal amounts
  • A caregiver or office employee claims your loved one has bought them gifts

Nursing home trust fund abuse can be difficult to spot. Many times the person stealing funds takes many small amounts from multiple accounts rather than withdrawing large amounts from a single account in order to hide their actions. If you suspect nursing home abuse, contact an experienced nursing home abuse attorney to schedule a free consultation to explore your legal options.

What You Can Do to Protect Your Loved One from Nursing Home Trust Fund Fraud

While nursing homes are frequently investigated and monitored for signs of elder abuse, financial exploitation may go unnoticed until serious damage to a resident’s finances has already occurred. If your elderly family member has a trust fund in a nursing home, there are ways to help safeguard their account:

  • Ask about becoming a financial representative for the loved one’s account
  • Investigate the nursing home’s history to see if they’ve previously been cited for violations or mismanagement of trust funds
  • Find out how often audits occur on the accounts
  • Check the account monthly and examine all expenditures to see if they appear reasonable and legitimate

By understanding the risks of trust fund abuse in nursing homes family members are better able to quickly identify and report fraudulent charges or withdrawals before they escalate and cause significant financial harm.

Attorney Timothy Manchin established the Manchin Injury Law Group in 2011 after his law partner of more than 25 years became a West Virginia circuit court judge. His focus is on helping individual clients and entire families victimized by negligent acts.

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