Elder abuse can take many forms, including physical, sexual, emotional, and financial. In long-term care facilities across the U.S., elders are facing financial abuse in alarming numbers. Nursing home financial abuse is a growing issue in today’s society and is likely to increase as the elderly population continues to grow. As many as one in nine individuals over the age of 60 years old have reported being financially exploited within the last year, according to the National Adult Protective Services Association. Elder financial abuse can cause serious harm to the senior and may result in depression, financial destitution, inability to support long-term care needs, among other effects.
Recently, The New Jersey Office of Long-Term Care Ombudsman (NJ LTCO) released a notice stating that the office frequently encounters inappropriate financial/billing practices by nursing home staff and/or their financial agents. In the notice, the NJ LTCO listed several examples of questionable practices, including:
- Asking a nursing home resident to sign a document that he or she doesn’t understand that would give the nursing home access to or control over the resident’s income or financial accounts.
- Submitting a change of address request to a resident’s financial institution without the resident’s consent or if the resident is incapable of authorizing the request.
- Asking the Social Security Administration to send a nursing home resident’s social security income directly to the nursing home (or billing company) instead of the resident, without the informed consent of the resident, resident’s representative, or legal representative.
- Moving large amounts of money from a resident’s account to the nursing home before the resident has accrued a debt with the nursing home or withholding Personal Needs Allowance funds for outstanding balances that are due to the facility.
- Moving or threatening to move a resident to a nursing home in a different county in order to “speed up” approval for Medicaid.
- Receiving a resident’s income for weeks or months after the resident has moved out or asking for “proof” that the resident “needs” the income before releasing it.
- Petitioning courts to serve as Medicaid representatives when the resident already has a guardian or submitting Medicaid applications for a resident who has a guardian.
- Purchasing pre-planned funeral arrangements or canceling health and/or life insurance policies without the informed consent of the resident, resident’s representative, or legal representative.
The notice also listed the rights that all nursing home residents have. These rights include:
- The right to manage financial affairs.
- The right to receive mail unopened.
- The right to receive a valid 30-day discharge/transfer notice when a facility seeks to transfer or discharge a resident involuntarily.
- The right to access records within 24 hours (excluding weekends and holidays).
Should a nursing home resident experience inappropriate financial/billing practices, the nursing home facility staff member or financial agent should be reported to the NJ LTCO by phone at 877-582-6995 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. In addition, wrongful practices may also be reported to the New Jersey Department of Health’s Licensing Division by calling 800-792-9770 or by email at email@example.com.
The lawyers at Hunziker Jones & Sweeney, P.A. understand that seniors have unique and specific needs. The firm’s elder law attorneys help seniors and their families by handling all aspects of elder law, including end-of-life planning, asset preservation, Medicaid planning, and trusts and estates issues. The firm’s New Jersey elder lawyers are trusted by their clients to handle each legal matter with diligence and compassion. For more information or to schedule a consultation, call (973) 256-0456.