When thinking about nursing home abuse, your first thought is probably physical abuse or neglect, but financial exploitation is another type of abuse that nursing home residents can experience. According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, financial exploitation of the elderly is the most common type of elder abuse, with 5% of older Americans falling victim every year.

Not all seniors are capable of managing their financial affairs. Older people are particularly vulnerable to all types of elder abuse, especially financial exploitation. Ideally, any nursing home that your loved one stays in should have measures in place to prevent all forms of abuse. To protect your loved one from this type of abuse, take some time to learn the signs of financial exploitation so you can take measures to prevent it and protect your loved one.

Research estimates that every year, nearly $3 billion is stolen, misused, or exploited by elderly Americans. Older people are more vulnerable to financial exploitation because factors such as living conditions, or health problems may affect their cognitive abilities and memory. Additionally, older people tend to rely on caregivers and other loved ones such as a family member, health professional, religious leader, neighbor, or friend for assistance with their everyday tasks, including money management. Financial exploitation of the elderly is most often done by someone the older person trusts and often occurs over the course of months or years.

Some examples of financial exploitation include, but are not limited to:
• Forging signatures
• Deception or coercion in signing documents, contracts, or wills
• Theft of a person’s money or physical possessions
• Improperly cashing a check
• Misusing power of attorney
• Telephone or e-mail scams

An older person may not be able to inform you if they suspect or know that someone is taking advantage of them financially. Financial exploitation can take many forms. You should monitor your loved one’s financial accounts for the following signs of mismanagement:
• Sudden changes in estate plans
• Missing documents, checks, credit cards, cash, or financial statements
• Repeated checks written out to “cash.”
• Suspicious credit card activity
• Forged signatures
• Addition of people to financial accounts and documents
• Unexplainable gifts to other people
• Unpaid bills
• Unusual financial activity or inconsistencies in statements or accounts

Also note any changes in your loved one’s behavior, appearance, or health as these may indicate that there is a problem.

If you suspect that your loved one is being financially exploited, document your reasons, take note of your loved one’s caregivers, inspect your loved one’s finances for discrepancies, and report your findings to the nursing home administrator and local authorities.

If your loved one has been financially exploited at their nursing home, contact an experienced nursing home abuse attorney to learn more about your rights and courses of action. Financial exploitation of the elderly is a serious problem, and we must do all we can to protect our most vulnerable population.

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