It’s an ugly fact that Florida nursing home residents aren’t always able to care for or protect themselves or their belongings.
They often lose jewelry, clothing, books, or gifts from visiting relatives. But, just as often, these items are taken from vulnerable victims who don’t know where to turn for help. If your loved one has been a victim of a similar crime, here’s what you should know about theft in nursing homes.
The Theft May Not Be Obvious
Just like elder abuse, West Palm Beach nursing home theft can easily go unnoticed.
You may notice that your father is missing his beloved watch but staff may claim he misplaced it or gifted it to another resident or visitor. However, you may not notice that your father’s checkbook is missing random pages, that his important identification or financial documents are gone, that his credit cards have vanished, or that he never got his stimulus check.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) issued a statement last year that warned of stimulus check theft in nursing homes with residents relying on Medicaid. The statement said the department had received reports of nursing homes requiring residents to wrongfully sign over the money to the facility.
Similar financial elder abuse may appear as suspicious charges, sudden changes in your loved one’s power of attorney, or unusual purchases.
Due to the complexity of theft in nursing homes and assisted living facilities, it’s important that you talk with your loved one about your suspicions. It’s possible that they decided to give away their beloved watch or that they gifted the cash in their wallet to a trio of visiting elementary school children.
But that may not be the case.
If your loved one isn’t able to grasp the allegations or suffers from mental disorders that prevent them from fully understanding the situation, you will need to be their advocate.
You May Be Dissuaded From Making An Official Complaint
Allegations of property theft in nursing homes can uncover business negligence and resident abuse. As such, nursing homes may want to avoid that level of increased scrutiny and try to dissuade you from making any official complaints or alerting police.
They also may say that they aren’t responsible for managing your loved one’s property or for the disappearance of any belongings.
Upon admission to a nursing home, your loved one might have signed documents that limit the facility’s liability when it comes to personal property theft. However, the waiver and the permission may not hold up in court, especially if your loved one was considered not in their right mind at the time of signing.
An experienced West Palm Beach elder abuse attorney will navigate such claims and fight for the safety of your loved one and their belongings.
Note All Inappropriate Behavior
Unfortunate as it is, nursing home residents are vulnerable to many different forms of abuse from various perpetrators, and theft in nursing homes is common. That’s why you must be vigilant about your loved one’s physical, mental, emotional, and financial health.
Inappropriate behavior may be what alerts you to serious abuse.
If another resident waltzes in and out of your loved one’s room without permission or care, pay attention to what they do when they notice you’re visiting. Do they immediately turn tail and leave? Do they ignore you and rummage through your loved one’s things? Do they sit down and introduce themselves while joking around with your relative?
Perhaps this other resident is a close friend. But it could also be someone taking advantage of your loved one’s vulnerable state.
If you notice staff acting inappropriately, consult with your loved one about their behavior. Do staff members often remove their jewelry without asking? Does your loved one remember getting their jewelry back or are they later accused of misplacing it?
Consider Gifting Your Loved One Some Tech
Technology may help with tracking down stolen or missing items. Your forgetful loved one can keep a Bluetooth tracking device in their wallet, helping them to immediately find it or learn that it’s no longer near the nursing home.
Technology may even help prevent future thefts. Just last year, a relative of a Florida nursing home patient witnessed a theft through an Amazon Alexa device. The relative alerted police, who said the accused man was believed to have robbed residents at several area nursing homes.
What if my loved one was the victim of theft in a nursing home?
After speaking with your elderly loved one, contact a West Palm Beach elder abuse attorney as soon as possible. Florida law limits the amount of time you have to file a claim.
Contact Lytal, Reiter, Smith, Ivey & Fronrath today for a free elder abuse case evaluation.