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Nursing home residents’ finances may not be safe

When one puts a loved one in a nursing home, he or she is sure to visit often and make sure that staff is caring well for the elderly family member. Most people know how to discover typical nursing home abuses such as malnutrition, development of bed sores or even improper supervision allowing an elderly loved one to wander off. Certainly, personal injuries to the elderly in nursing homes are not uncommon. However, an unnoticed abuse of a loved one’s finances may not be something one expects. Unfortunately, many seniors residing in nursing homes across the country are subject to theft of their savings by the very nursing home that should be caring for them, and Florida seniors are not immune from this abuse.

As reported by USA Today, financial exploitation at the hand of nursing home employees is now in the spotlight, with many state attorneys general vamping up the investigation of this growing problem. There have been innumerable instances of nursing home employees, including administrators, stealing residents’ funds for shopping sprees, personal purchases for themselves and even gambling.

Many agree that the proliferation of this kind of exploitation of the elderly has to do with a lack of sufficient oversight in the system. There is a requirement that Medicaid and Medicare participating facilities must maintain trust fund accounts for their elderly residents with savings or income, but apparently, there are not always corresponding adequate audit requirements.

When discovered, often the nursing home is able to properly reimburse the victim via insurance it maintains to cover such losses. Other times, it will outright repay the victim’s losses that the insurance does not cover. As such, the vulnerable elderly are not the only victims, as the nursing home facility itself often pays out of pocket to make amends to the individual and to pursue the liable party.

In Florida, Attorney General Pam Bondi and the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit successfully investigated and prosecuted state Medicaid fraud, and over the last six years, they have obtained over $700 million in damages. Part of the investigatory efforts includes nursing homes that receive Medicaid. This year, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General awarded the Florida MFCU the Award of Excellence in Fighting Fraud, Waste and Abuse. The Attorney General points out that with the help of Florida’s False Claims Act, citizens’ reporting of suspected fraud is very welcome. In fact, whistleblowers receive rewards by sharing in the funds the state may recover after the successful pursuit of a reported fraud.