Providers have tools to recognize, intervene in financial abuse of residents: speaker – McKnight’s Senior Living

Assisted living and skilled nursing operators can prevent or stop the financial abuse of residents by recognizing red flags, developing policies and protocols, training staff members and using technology to prevent financial abuse, said Kate Kramer, a policy analyst with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Office for Older Americans.

“Financial abuse is a fraudulent or improper use by an individual that uses the resources of an older person for the other individual’s personal benefit or gain,” Kramer said Wednesday during a webinar. The result is that older individuals are deprived of the use of their own assets for their own benefit and needs, she added.

Financial abuse takes various forms, Kramer said. People with legal obligations to handle others’ finances as trustees, power of attorney or other roles could spend those resources on themselves. Or an unauthorized person could try to take control of another person’s property by pressuring, misleading or lying to that person. 

“They might try to take the elderly person’s house by promising to care for them as long as they have access to a bank account,” Kramer said.

When a long-term care resident has a financial caregiver, she said, the operator of the facility where he or she lives should keep a copy of all pertinent documentation on file. “It’s critical to ask for that documentation or check records to confirm they do have that legal authority to manage the resident’s money before disclosing [financial] information to them,” Kramer said.

If a resident is 60 days or more behind in payment to a senior living community, that could be a red flag that money is being mishandled, so it’s important to investigate the cause, Kramer said. Another red flag, she said, might be that a resident doesn’t have the toiletries he or she typically has, or money for an outing.

“Early detection of these types of situations is really key,” Kramer said, adding that nursing homes and assisted living communities should train staff members to recognize signs of financial abuse.

Technology can be another tool in the staff toolbelt, she said. Helping residents stay connected with family members and friends through technology gives residents more people to talk to and share concerns, Kramer said. Additionally, a family member might notice something “off” that is worth reporting to staff members or authorities.

Employees should document and report anything they think is potential elder financial abuse to the appropriate public authority, according to state law, she said. In most states, reporting is mandatory for suspected financial abuse.

“You should know what agency is responsible for investigating financial abuse of a resident in a care setting,” Kramer said.

Almost all states have provisions that guarantee immunity for people who report elder abuse even if the allegation turns out to be unfounded, she said.