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Watch out for financial exploitation in nursing homes

Having a parent in a nursing home already comes with much anxiety. You worry about the various types of abuse that can occur, as well as medical errors and neglect due to increasing rates of understaffing.

Perhaps your parent is lucky enough to escape these horrors, but there are others to be aware of. One of the most common forms of elder abuse, and maybe the easiest to hide, is financial exploitation. Know the types and signs so you can prevent your parent from losing valuable assets or getting kicked out of the nursing home for overdue bills.

Types of financial exploitation

At the most basic level, a member of the nursing home staff may steal money or property from your parent. Less risky and harder to take legal action against is staff or outsiders becoming close to your parent and gaining his or her trust so that your parent willingly offers them money, pays for their expenses or includes them as a beneficiary in estate plans. Other types include committing fraud, such as investment schemes, and obtaining power of attorney over your parent's financial affairs.

Signs of financial exploitation

The signs are not always apparent as they do not leave physical evidence as abuse and neglect do. Things to watch for include the following:

  • A sudden change in a will or other legal document
  • Forged signatures
  • Nonpayment of nursing home bills
  • New and suspicious friendships, especially with younger people of the opposite gender
  • Expensive gifts to nursing home staff
  • Missing assets or credit cards
  • Inexplicable changes in financial choices or circumstances

Your parent may also show behavioral signs, such as anxiety, distrust or secrecy. While you may suspect nursing home staff first, remember that family members are likely to be guilty as well. Make sure that a trusted person is in charge of and keeps track of your parent's finances to prevent anyone taking advantage of your loved one.

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