The suspicions of a Vicksburg-area nursing home administrator were recently piqued when she noticed a debit for an expensive pair of jeans on one of the resident’s trust accounts. Beyond the fact that it did not seem like a particularly age- or gender-appropriate purchase, the administrator found it highly unlikely that a resident whose legs were amputated would invest in such trendy trousers.
Upon closer inspection, the administrator was shocked to discover a variety of questionable purchases, such as makeup and a hairdryer. Since the culprit had submitted receipts for the purchases, an audit was never triggered uncovering the shopping sprees. In total, more than $100,000 had been pilfered from the accounts of 83 residents of two different facilities.
It’s all about trust
Trust funds such as the ones from which the Vicksburg thief made purchases are frequently maintained by the facilities in which elderly Americans live. The accounts are supposed to be managed like regular bank accounts with the same protocols. However, recent studies indicate that that these funds are highly susceptible to theft. The lack of oversight of these accounts makes them extremely tempting targets for those in financial trouble who find themselves with easy access to money that no one appears to be watching.
In more than 1,500 recent cases, state and federal agencies found nursing homes had mishandled their residents’ funds. In certain instances, employees were able to abscond with hundreds of thousands of dollars. While these crimes are difficult to detect, with some never being discovered, experts have found that frequent reviews of records and monitoring of statements may reveal theft. In other cases, carelessness leads to mistakes that raise red flags for administrators or residents’ loved ones.
Preying on the vulnerable
Many nursing home residents suffer from loneliness, senility, and even dementia, and discovering that they have been stolen from can be devastating.