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Financial Abuse and Exploitation

It’s an unfortunate reality that people who live in nursing homes sometimes become the victims of financial exploitation. Elderly nursing home residents or residents who have disabilities can become vulnerable to manipulation, coercion, or threats that result in a caregiver taking advantage of them and stripping them of their money and assets.

According to the National Adult Protective Services Association, 1 in 20 seniors reported being the victim of financial exploitation in the recent past. However, it’s estimated that only a small fraction of cases of financial exploitation are reported, so there may actually be many more seniors or adults with disabilities experiencing this form of caregiver or nursing home abuse. The National Center on Elder Abuse estimates that the annual financial losses by victims of financial exploitation totals in the billions.

Unfortunately, financial exploitation most often comes at the hands of people the senior or disabled person trusts. The most common scenarios involve:

  • Caregivers such as nursing home staff
  • Family members
  • Friends
  • Medical providers
  • Staff members at banks
  • Religious advisors such as church pastors

If you are the victim of nursing home financial abuse, or believe a loved one who lives in a nursing home is being financially exploited, you may have a claim for compensation under Illinois law. The Illinois Nursing Home Care Act says that among the many rights of nursing home residents is the right to manage his or her own financial affairs unless the resident or a legal guardian authorizes the facility’s administrator to manage the resident’s finances. When a nursing home resident is denied that right, the nursing home’s owner or licensee may be liable. An experienced nursing home lawyer can help you determine if you might have a claim.

Warning Signs of Financial Abuse

Some common ways that a person may financially exploit a senior or disabled person include:

  • Convincing the victim to grant a Power of Attorney, which the person then uses to steal money or assets for his or her own use
  • Using joint bank accounts to take the victim’s money
  • Stealing ATM cards or checks to take money out of the victim’s accounts
  • Threatening or using coercion against the victim for financial gain
  • Refusing to use the victim’s money to pay for medical care or personal needs so that the abuser can use the money or assets
  • Charging for services that weren’t provided
  • Forging the victim’s signature on documents or checks
  • Stealing the victim’s valuables to sell for cash

According to the Illinois Attorney General and other sources, potential warning signs that a nursing home resident is being financially exploited include:

  • Visitors aren’t allowed to see the resident
  • A person who has access to the resident’s money or accounts appears to be using money to benefit themselves
  • Despite having money, the resident doesn’t have adequate food, clothing, or personal items
  • The resident’s personal items often go missing
  • The resident’s assets are transferred without his or her permission
  • Sudden changes to wills or trusts
  • An unusual pattern of withdrawals from financial accounts

Consequences of Financial Abuse

For many seniors, the theft of money or assets may represent the loss of a lifetime of work. Seniors or people with disabilities who are financially exploited may end up in poverty and unable to provide for their daily or long-term needs, and may have to turn to state or federal safety net programs just to survive. Because they lack money or assets, they may also feel that they’re in no position to try to fight the person who exploited them. In the case of nursing home residents, it’s likely they’ll never be able to replace the assets that are lost.

Being manipulated and defrauded can take a serious toll on a senior or person with disabilities. In addition to the loss of money or assets, a senior or disabled person who falls prey to financial abuse can experience a number of other effects that can be harmful to his or her physical or mental health. Those include:

  • An inability to trust others
  • Feelings of insecurity, fear, anger, shame, or worthlessness
  • Depression

How a Lawyer Can Help

When a nursing home resident has suffered financial exploitation, a lawyer may be able to step in and help put a stop to the abuse. An experienced nursing home abuse lawyer may be able to:

  • Help the victim get a Power of Attorney revoked
  • Get a representative or legal guardian appointed to manage the victim’s finances and advocate for the victim
  • Get joint bank accounts closed and assets transferred out of the control of the abuser

Additionally, a lawyer can help you or your loved one pursue a claim for compensation under the Illinois Nursing Home Care Act. The act holds facility owners and licensees responsible for what happens to residents, and when you or your loved one has been financially exploited or abused by a nursing home staff member, you may be able to receive compensation from the owner or licensee.

You also can report the financial exploitation to authorities and pursue an action against the person or facility’s license, or a criminal complaint. A Chicago elder abuse attorney can help you contact the appropriate agencies so that you or your loved one gets the justice you deserve in the wake of acts of financial abuse. You may be eligible for crime victim compensation if the person used violence as a means of obtaining financial control.