Feds Publish Guide to Preventing Financial Abuse of Care Facility Residents

The U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has published a guide to help assisted-living and nursing care facility managers and staff prevent and address financial exploitation of their older residents.

It's the crime of the 21st century, says CFPB. Older Americans lose almost $3 billion annually to financial exploitation. Financial exploitation is the most common form of elder abuse -- a recent study found that about five percent of Americans age 60 and older experienced financial mistreatment by a family member in a single year.

For residents of care facilities, most exploitation complaints involve perpetrators from outside the facility.

How Care Facilities Can Help
Four key actions are recommended to care facilities to protect their residents from financial abuse:
1. Prevent: Through awareness and training
2. Recognize: Spot the warning signs and take action
3. Record: Document findings
4. Report: Tell appropriate authorities and trigger responses

Obligations of Care Facilities
State laws to protect residents from and report financial abuse vary. Most states require health care providers to report suspected abuse, neglect, and exploitation. The primary state agencies for investigating reports of suspected abuse are Adult Protective Services (APS), licensing agencies, law enforcement, and the long-term care ombudsman.

Often, states will have specific laws aimed at protecting older persons, particularly those who have a physical or cognitive impairment. (Tennessee, for instance, is one of those states, establishing older, impaired adults as a protected class of individuals.)

Elder financial abuse that occurs in an assisted living or nursing facility is not a federal crime (at least when the perpetrator is from outside the facility, such as a friend or family member). Under federal law, however, long-term care facilities that receive at least $10,000 in federal funds during the preceding year must report "any reasonable suspicion of a crime" committed against a resident to state survey agencies and to local law enforcement.

The CFPB guide, Protecting Residents from Financial Exploitation: A Manual for Assisted Living and Nursing Facilities, directs managers and staff of care facilities on the warning signs that may indicate financial abuse and includes a "Model Response Protocol" for how facilities can recognize, record, and report suspected financial exploitation of its residents.

The Guide is available online as a free download from the CFPB's Web site here.

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