If you have reason to believe your loved one is being manipulated or financially exploited while in the care of a nursing home, do not wait to get in touch with Harvey & Foote Law Firm.
Financial abuse in nursing homes is a growing problem that can have serious consequences for residents. Victims of financial abuse may lose their hard-earned savings and assets, which can negatively impact their families and cause emotional, psychological, and physical trauma. Unfortunately, many cases of financial abuse in nursing homes go unreported due to the relative isolation of residents and the power imbalance that often exists between abusers and victims. It is essential that families are aware of the signs of financial abuse in order to protect their loved ones.
Our experienced Albuquerque nursing home financial abuse lawyers are well-versed in how to handle these cases and are prepared to help you hold responsible parties accountable for misconduct. We will leverage our hometown advantage as we work to recover misappropriated financial resources and get your family justice.
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What Is Financial Abuse?
In a nursing home, financial abuse occurs when someone takes or uses a resident’s money or property without their consent in a way that benefits someone other than the resident. Put another way, financial abuse refers to any situation where someone takes advantage of a vulnerable elderly adult by stealing or unethically procuring their financial resources.
Financial elder abuse takes place in a variety of settings but can be especially prominent in nursing homes, as residents are often especially isolated, vulnerable, and susceptible to exploitation. In many cases, a resident’s primary caregiver will be the one responsible for the abuse. They may take to build trust with the resident before convincing them to transfer money or assets. Alternatively, they may simply steal money and resources without the resident’s knowledge once they become familiar with their finances.
Financial abuse may still be occurring even if the resident appears to be voluntarily giving up money, assets, or property. Nursing home residents with reduced mental faculties may not be able to consent to these types of financial or legal decisions, or the perpetrator may be threatening or manipulating them in a way that is improper, unethical, or illegal.
Financial abuse can be carried out by staff members, other residents, or even family members and can take various forms, including:
- Stealing: This involves taking money, valuables, or personal property from the resident without their consent.
- Coercion or Undue Influence: Manipulating or pressuring the resident into giving away money, changing their will, or signing financial documents such as contracts or powers of attorney.
- Forgery or Fraud: Signing the resident's name without permission, altering documents, or engaging in deceitful practices to access their finances or property.
- Overcharging or Billing Fraud: Charging the resident for services or goods that were not provided or charging excessive fees.
- Unauthorized Withdrawals or Transfers: Taking money from the resident's bank account without their knowledge or consent, or transferring funds without authorization.
- Misuse of Financial Power: Improperly using a power of attorney or legal authority to manage the resident's finances for personal benefit rather than the resident's well-being.
- Identity Theft: Stealing personal information to open credit lines, bank accounts, or make purchases without the resident's permission.
Signs of Financial Abuse in New Mexico Nursing Homes
Depending on the circumstances, detecting financial abuse in a nursing home setting can be extremely difficult. Financial abusers tend to be good at covering their tracks and often build strong relationships with their victims, allowing abusers to isolate victims from concerned family members. Abusers can also sometimes persuade victims into believing exploitative actions are in their best interest, meaning victims will be far less likely to report anything amiss. You should thus never assume your loved one will tell you about financial abuse: You will have to watch out for red flags.
Consider reaching out to our Albuquerque nursing home financial abuse attorneys if you notice any of the following warning signs:
- Your loved one is reluctant to discuss their finances
- Your loved one referencing documents they were asked to sign that they did not understand
- Your loved one explaining someone insisted they accompany them to the bank
- Unexplained money transfers or changes to bank accounts
- Unusual and unexplained credit or debit card activity, including ATM withdrawals
- Unpaid bills that you know your loved one has the money to pay
- Sudden changes to your loved one’s estate planning documents
- The unexplained disappearance of your loved one’s money or property
- A caregiver or another nursing home staff member refusing to allow you to be alone with your loved one
How to Prevent Financial Abuse
Protecting elderly loved ones from financial abuse involves several proactive steps:
- Education and Communication: Ensure that your loved one understands the risks of financial abuse. Encourage open communication about their finances and any concerns they might have.
- Monitor Financial Accounts: Regularly review bank statements, bills, and financial transactions. Look for any unusual activity or discrepancies that might indicate potential abuse.
- Limit Access to Financial Information: Be cautious about sharing sensitive financial information. Limit access to bank accounts, credit cards, and important documents to trusted individuals.
- Establish Power of Attorney (POA) Wisely: If a POA is necessary, select a trustworthy and responsible person. Consider using a limited or specific POA that restricts the agent's powers to certain actions or time frames.
- Create a Will or Trust: Ensure that your loved one has a legally sound will or trust in place to protect their assets and ensure their wishes are followed.
- Stay Involved: Regularly visit or stay in touch with your loved one. Isolation can make them more vulnerable to exploitation. Being present can also help detect any signs of abuse.
- Be Aware of Scams: Educate your loved one about common scams targeting the elderly, such as fraudulent phone calls, emails, or letters requesting money or personal information.
- Seek Legal Advice: If you suspect financial abuse, consult with a lawyer experienced in elder law. They can guide you through legal options and help protect your loved one's rights.
- Report Suspected Abuse: If you suspect financial abuse, report it immediately to the appropriate authorities, such as Adult Protective Services, the police, or the long-term care ombudsman.
By staying vigilant, maintaining open communication, and taking proactive steps to safeguard your loved one's finances, you can significantly reduce the risk of financial abuse.
Recovering Damages for Nursing Home Financial Abuse
When you discover evidence of financial exploitation, you will need to report the abuse to the appropriate parties, including the nursing home and New Mexico Adult Protective Services. Our team at the Harvey & Foote Law Firm can help you prepare these reports and work with you as you communicate with the facility and relevant authorities. Then, we can work to hold the abuser accountable and seek damages. The nursing home itself may also be liable for negligence if it knew (or should have known) about the perpetrator’s conduct but failed to act or if it failed to conduct an adequate background check on the offending employee. We can help determine liability and walk you through your legal options.
Our Albuquerque nursing home financial abuse lawyers will work to secure:
- Compensatory damages for losses incurred due to the abuse, including the return of stolen money and assets
- Punitive damages
- Compensation for emotional distress
- Compensation for pain and suffering
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