Nursing home residents often entrust a portion of their savings to the facility’s care so that the facility can handle their funds like a bank and make purchases on their behalf. Unfortunately, oversight of this money often is lax. A recent study by USA Today uncovered more than 1,500 cases of theft from such savings during a three-year period. That’s probably just the tip of the iceberg—most thefts of this type likely go undetected.
To evaluate the risk at a nursing home that you or your loved one is in or is considering, first see if similar thefts have been uncovered there. To do this, visit Medicare.gov (choose “Find Nursing Homes,” then the “Nursing Home Compare” tool). Select the nursing home, click “Inspection Results,” then “Complaints and Facility-Reported Incidents.”
Also, ask a nursing home representative the following questions: “Who manages residents’ trust funds?”…“What vetting was done on this employee—was a criminal background check conducted?”…and “Do independent auditors periodically review these trust funds?” Be wary if the nursing home representative’s answers seem evasive or insufficient.
When money is deposited with a nursing home, the home is required to provide a quarterly statement listing all transactions. Scan all purchases and withdrawals listed on this statement, then request receipts for any that seem questionable. Confirm that the account is earning interest, as required.
Occasionally request an account statement between quarterly statements—the home must supply these upon request. Unexpected statement requests send the message that someone is paying attention to the account, a strong deterrent to theft.
Speak with a nursing home administrator about questions or concerns you have after reading account statements. Consider moving the money to a bank account if you are not 100% confident in the home’s management of these assets. If you suspect that money has been misused, contact your state’s long-term-care ombudsman, the state survey agency, the Medicare Fraud Control unit of your state’s Attorney General’s office and/or the police.