Preventing theft in nursing homes

Ohio and federal laws protect family members from nursing home neglect and abuse. These include requirements that facilities keep a reasonably secure environment or that it will be responsible for the theft or loss of a resident's personal property.

Additional precautions may protect the personal property of residents. First, they should request a copy of their personal inventory and family members can help verify that all their property and possessions are listed on that document. If the resident is unable to make this request, their legal representatives can ask for this document.

Family members should know the nursing home staff members responsible for investigating thefts and losses. Written reports of theft or loss should be provided to them and copies should be sent to the ombudsman. Family members should monitor whether these reports are investigated and seek reimbursement if the property is never found. This document should also be kept with any receipts and property appraisals. Photographs can also help locate missing property, drafting a police report or seeking reimbursement.

Facilities should also provide a drawer, box or other item that may be locked. Residents should always keep the key with them. Family members should also know if anyone else has a duplicate key.

Resident names should be written with a permanent marker on clothing and other property in a place that is hidden when it is worn or used. Residents should only keep a small amount of cash for their personal use. Facilities should have a trust account for each resident and provide them with reasonable access during normal business hours.

Names should also be engraved or permanently affixed on watches and eyeglasses. Most dentists may also engrave dentures.

Source: The Courier & Press, "Voices: Dealing with loss, theft in long-term care settings," Alicia Reeves and Michelle Motta, Dec. 15, 2017

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