Financial exploitation is a serious concern for people of all ages, but it can spiral out of control with the elderly, especially in a nursing home environment. It’s not unheard of for caregivers to take financial advantage of their patients, and while it might not seem as harmful as physical or emotional abuse, it’s still a form of abuse and should be taken seriously. In fact, financial mistreatment is one of the number one issues we see in Las Vegas nursing home abuse cases. It’s important to stay vigilant! In extreme cases, it may be possible to sue the nursing home for neglect and abuse here in Nevada, especially if you spot the signs early.
In many financial abuse cases, elders are exploited by people they trust, often with their knowledge and consent. Other times elders may be unaware that someone is taking advantage of them. In both cases they may feel too guilty or scared to bring up the issue to their family, so it’s often up to you to spot the signs and eventually seek legal assistance: especially since financial exploitation is often linked to physical abuse of the elder as well as general neglect.
Stay informed and on the lookout! Here are the main signs of elderly financial exploitation.
Signs of Elderly Financial Exploitation
A Pattern of Rapid Cash Withdrawals
If someone is financially exploiting your loved one, they’re likely to go for the easiest target: liquid cash!
When financial exploitation is happening, the first thing to look for is a pattern of quick and out-of-place withdrawals, especially when your loved one does not usually withdraw funds. This can start with just a couple of small, consecutive withdrawals and then scale up in amount and frequency.
Look at when the withdrawals happened. Are there more of them than usual, or is the amount higher than your loved one usually takes out?
And is there a reasonable explanation for what is going on, like a shopping spree for holiday gifts, or is there something else in the works?
If the pattern is really out of place, someone may be taking advantage of your loved one financially. This is essentially theft! A staff member at the nursing home may have gotten a hold of your loved one’s banking information, either by staying logged in on a public computer, or by misplaced their debit card. In some cases, staff may even emotionally manipulate patients to sign off on checks after befriending them and earning their trust.
Unpaid Bills + Empty Bank Account
Your loved one will still have bills to pay, often associated with their basic needs or monthly expenses, like cellphone costs or payments on a credit card. If you receive notice that these bills are not being paid, or if your loved one seems convinced that their bills should be paid for even if they haven’t been, this is a sign that something is off and an unauthorized person is using the account (and possibly overspending + over drafting).
If this is happening, try to check the status of their bank account. Is it empty, overdrafted, and/or delinquent? This is a problem especially when your loved one has no history with spending issues, and if they seem genuinely confused about their unpaid bills.
Unusual Credit Card Spending
Related to the strange bank account activity is credit card spending. If your loved one accidentally leaves out their credit card, the staff at the nursing home may have enough information to use it unauthorized. Even if the elderly person still has the physical card, someone could still exploit them financially by storing the card information in a written or digital form.
Check the statements on the credit card account for unusual merchants or websites, ones that don’t seem typical for your loved one to use.
You should also check to see if there any new authorized users added to your loved one’s debit and credit cards since this is an easy process to do online and might have been done on your loved one’s account without them noticing.
Another, more subtle sign of financial exploitation are strange banking decisions, such as if your elderly loved one starts to randomly take money out of the account to put into a new account, if they set up different security options on their account, or change their password when they’ve agreed to share it with you for technical help. You might also notice that the contact information has changed, like their phone number, address, and email address. In some cases, the abuser may even forge the patient’s signature to gain access to their accounts and assets.
Misuse of funds is a little more tricky to spot, but it still happens, so look out for this! To try to cover up the financial exploitation, someone may give the wrong information to your loved one about something that has to be paid: extra bills at the nursing home, or extra supplies. They might ask for additional funds to cover these expenses, only to pocket the extra cash for themselves.
This is where you have to be aware of the exact expenses at the nursing home so that any suspicious extra costs can be accounted for.
It sounds horrible, but this is something that does happen in nursing home abuse cases — in some extreme cases, the exploiter gets enough information, trust, and sympathy from the patient to access their life savings, after which significant amounts disappear from the account. Sometimes this can amount to tens of thousands of dollars, and while elders will sometimes use these funds to pay for important bills and expenses, you don’t want that account to empty out suddenly and rapidly.
Many people check their life savings accounts less than their checking accounts, making it easier for people to financially exploit savings accounts once they have access.
This is one of those issues that can become challenging to deal with, especially if the assets are hard to reacquire. In some cases, the elderly becomes financially exploited through their material possessions: properties, vehicles, jewelry, and other valuables. They may start to lose out on assets that were a big part of their life and that should remain within the family. Abusers may even get the elder to sign off on a legal transfer of these assets through emotional manipulation, which can be a boatload of trouble to reverse.
Staff Member Providing Financial Advice
Sometimes the financial mistreatment is not obvious at first. The abuser may gain the trust of your loved one by offering them great financial advice and being very helpful at first… only to turn things around when they have control of the accounts, or when they’ve made the patient feel guilty or sympathetic. Many of the nursing home neglect cases we’ve seen in Las Vegas include financial abuse that occurs a long period of time as the abuser slowly wins over the patient.
Elder Feels Responsible/Guilty For Someone
Finally, it’s important to look at the emotional pitfalls of financial abuse. The abuser can weave a web of emotional manipulation around the patient, until the point that the elder feels personally responsible to help them financially or to transfer assets. Elders may feel obligated to “help someone else who helps them”, which is in fact not their place as the nursing home staff has already been hired and paid to assist them. Your loved one may become emotionally agitated or confused when confronted about the financial mistreatment, but they may not know the extent to which the abuse has occurred.
These just a few of the signs of financial abuse we have seen in our nursing home neglect cases. Note again that elderly financial abuse is closely linked with other forms of neglect and negligent treatment, so watch out for these as well.
It’s important to spot the signs early to spare your loved one the emotional and financial abuse, which could be leading to a significant loss of assets and quality of life that they’ve worked so hard for. If you see any of these patterns or signs in your loved one, be sure to seek legal assistance and counsel, and DO NOT attempt to deal with the nursing home directly!
Contact us for a free legal consultation on elderly neglect & abuse cases. At Gazda & Tadayon, these types of cases are one of our specialties and we have helped hundreds of clients win just compensation and stop the cycle of abuse in our Nevada nursing homes.