Nursing homes are supposed to provide a safe place for people who are too old to care for themselves. Unfortunately, this relationship often places the managers and owners of the home in a position of virtually uncontrolled power over the residents. A prime example of how this power imbalance can affect nursing home residents came to light last week when the Cook County Public Guardian’s office filed a complaint seeking damages from the four entities that own a chain of nursing homes known as Symphony Residences.
The complaint alleges that when the owners and managers of the nursing home in question discovered that employees of the home stole $700,000 from a 98 year old resident who suffered from Alzheimer’s disease, they attempted to hide the theft instead of reporting it to authorities. The complaint alleges that five nursing home employees routinely stole money from the victim’s retirement and savings accounts. They allegedly used a combination of forged checks, illegal ATM withdrawals and other methods to virtually clean out the victim’s accounts. The supervisors of these employees were not accused of any direct theft; instead, they have been charged with failing to report the crimes to the proper authorities.
The complaint further alleges that a nursing home employee resorted to locking this victim in her office to prevent county social workers from moving her to another nursing home. When news of this tactic reached the Public Guardian, he sent one of his deputy attorneys to the nursing home to attempt to repair the damage. The nursing home managers refused to cooperate, and the attorney reportedly told them they had five minutes to cooperate before the police would be summoned. Even this threat refused to motivate the nursing home management to cooperate.
Two of the five employees accused of participating in the theft have been charged criminally with financial exploitation of an elderly person. The nursing home management has denied the allegations stated in the civil complaint, but the case could last for many months. If the elderly victim dies before the case is completed, the charity named in her will could take her place as a complainant.