Thousands of nursing home residents across the U.S. rely on their nursing home facilities to safeguard their money in special trust fund accounts. These trust fund accounts operate like your typical bank accounts with interest accrual, statements of activity, and oversight. The funds from residents are often deposited into a single account where money can be withdrawn for resident care and incidentals.
In recent years there have been more than 1,500 cases in which nursing homes have been cited for mishandling resident trust funds. More than 100 nursing home employees across the country have been prosecuted for stealing from resident funds. The most recent case comes from Vicksburg, Missouri where business office staff coordinator Lee Martin of Vicksburg Convalescent billed over $101, 000 in personal expenses to trust accounts of 83 residents. Martin, the only employee handling the resident trust funds, targeted residents who paid for their care through Medicare or on their own, those who did not have family, and those who had dementia.
Martin’s year long scheme ended when an administrator at Vicksburg Convalescent stumbled upon a suspicious $90 receipt for a pair of designer jeans from a resident’s account with amputated legs. Incidents of trust fund mishandling often go unnoticed because nursing home inspections typically focus on the quality of care that is being provided to residents and usually one employee is trusted in handling the funds. Federal law requires that nursing homes protect resident funds by utilizing such things as a surety bond, however, once the funds are taken, it takes more than replenishing the account to mend the broken trust of residents.
If you or a loved one utilizes a nursing home trust fund, there are several things you can do to ensure your money is not being mismanaged:
• check all expenditures listed on trust fund statements.
• check quarterly statements for interest.
• check whether the facility has been cited for mismanagement of resident funds.
• Ask how the facility manages resident funds. Find out who is responsible for handling the funds, how often audits are completed, and whether they are available to residents and their family.