Financial exploitation and theft of patients by caregivers amount to not only crimes of theft punishable under the law, but also amount to a disturbing moral and ethical financial exploitation in which nursing home staffers exploit their residents’ weaknesses and their positions of authority and supposed trust in order to benefit or enrich themselves. This can include simply stealing items like jewelry from residents’ rooms or taking cash or credit cards.
Sometimes a caregiver may be entrusted with making purchases on behalf of the patient and is thus entrusted with their checkbook or credit card, and can so easily steal money or use a credit card to buy items for themselves. Where a caregiver gains power of attorney for a patient, the caregiver effectively can control everything and take advantage of that power.
Where the victim is less likely to notice or pay attention to these things, and particularly in situations where the patient suffers mental infirmities like dementia or Alzheimer’s, this can be quite easy for a staffer. It is also important to realize that this does not just happen at nursing homes but can happen with in-home caregivers as well, thus it is broadly a serious issue in the area of elder care. Typically it takes the vigilance of a loved one to notice money missing or problems with credit card statements or missing jewelry or valuable for it to be reported and possibly investigated. And many accused of this horrible behavior will claim that they have a special relationship with the victim, and that the victim ultimately wanted to pass along property and money to them for whatever reason.
Recent Case of Elder Exploitation
In Montana there has been another case of financial exploitation by an elder caregiver against the 84 year old whose welfare he was charged with protecting and supporting. This caregiver was accused of using power of attorney over his patient’s affairs in order to take over the patient’s 103-acre ranch, as well as to acquire titles to two cars and a motorcycle also owned by the patient. The caregiver also stole $142,000 from the victim’s bank account in one particular year.
As is often the case the patient suffered dementia, and the caregiver took clear advantage of that situation to steal all of this money and property. The caregiver was just recently convicted in county district court on two felony counts of “purposely or knowingly abusing or neglecting a victim” as well as “exploitation of an elderly person resulting in losses in excess of $25,000.” The accused posted bond and awaits sentencing within a couple of months. In addition to the financial exploitation, it appears that the caregiver neglected his duties to provide care for the victim, as “untreated melanomas” on the patient’s face and back posted serious medical problems. The patient died last August.
In this particular case, the gross and egregious financial and property exploitation was discovered by a social worker, who was assigned to protect the patient after the patient’s sister called the police to report the suspected abuse and exploitation. The social worker saw the patient had nothing left “but milk and peanut butter.” A legal guardian was also then appointed to help the victim and discovered the extent of the exploitation. They were able to recoup some of the property, and sell the ranch in order to finance his end-of-life care. While this had somewhat of a happier ending than it could have, this case is another warning about elder caregivers who will exploit the patients’ weaknesses and their relationship in order to unjustly enrich themselves.
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