By Bob Gregory
Sooner or later you are going to get the call or hear your elderly parent tell you that some is stealing their “stuff”. When you do get the call, and you will, prepare to do some investigating before getting everyone at the facility involved or making a big deal out of the claim. I have personally received the same call, numerous times, and you do need to investigate but have an open mind that there might not be a “thief”. Most Senior Facilities are safe and have strict policies regarding thief by employees and residents, however, theft does occur. When you do get the call, you need to know that there are several reasons that your parent believes they are the victim of theft.
Reasons your parent may claim they are victims of theft:
- First, claims of theft can
be an early sign of memory issues. Memory
issues are the most common reasons residents of senior facilities believe
they are victims of theft. The
claims usually involve small personal items that are left in common areas,
other resident’s rooms or thrown out.
They may also be missing because they were given to another person
as a gift. You need to investigate
carefully, check with other residents and staff to see if they have seen
the item or know of the disposition.
Be careful not to accuse anyone of theft while you
investigate. You will probably find
the staff can help you locate the item or tell you of the disposition as
they are usually very observant and know their residents well. I also noticed my mother would hide items
for fear of theft and forget
Boris the Burgular Neighborhood Watch Sign (Photo credits: mysafetysign.com)
- Second most common reason for
claims of theft is what I refer to as “casual borrowing”. This occurs when other residents help
themselves to items that they may honestly believe your parent does not
mind them having or using. Yes, it
is still a form of theft but it is not the malicious criminal type. For example, my mother always kept an
expensive bottle of hand lotion by her bed and needed to replace the
bottle almost weekly. The bottle
was large enough that it should have lasted at least a month with daily
use. Residents and staff alike
would apply a little to their own hands when they visited her room and
before I knew it, I was investigating who was “stealing” my mother’s hand
lotion. Simply putting the bottle
in a drawer remedied the thievery!
There were also occasions where friends would place a sweater over
their shoulders when visiting her room and leave with it on. Sooner or later it would be recovered
but not after I was summonsed to do a complete and thorough investigation—“casual
Thief (Photo credit: FotoChesKa)
- Finally, no matter how secure or reputable the facility, items do get stolen. This category usually involves valuable items such as jewelry or money. If your parent is the victim of theft, notify the facility immediately of the item or items that appear to be stolen. Give them an opportunity to investigate to make sure it is theft and not one of the two reasons mentioned above. Finally, make a police report so there is a formal investigation and to support any insurance claim. Generally, items are rarely recovered when there is true theft involved so don’t get your hopes up. Also, encourage your parent to give a statement to both the facility and the police that is as detailed as possible. Accusations of theft that are unsupported can create a very tenuous environment with other residents and staff, so be sure and let the police and the management of the facility conduct the investigation.
Safety of person and property are always important when choosing a senior facility so be sure you ask about theft before you decide. Once your parent moves in, there are several things you can do to help your parent prevent theft of any type.
- Keep valuable items secure and locked away. If your parent’s room does not have a locking cabinet or safe, check with the facility to see if they have a secure safe where your parent can check valuables in and out as they need them. If not, consider keeping valuables at a family member’s home.
- Make sure articles of
clothing are clearly labeled with your parent’s name so they can be identified
Picture of a burglar alarm detection point.
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
- Make sure your parent has plenty of storage space, especially cabinets and drawers where they can keep small items that tend to get borrowed out of site. Encourage them to keep their room orderly so items are not misplaced and easy for them to find. This is a good activity you can do with your parent when you visit.
- Make sure valuables are insured and keep a detailed list. It is also a good idea to take pictures of the valuables and store them at your home so you can easily provide them to the facility’s management and police if necessary.
Keep in mind the senior facility is your parent’s home and they should feel safe and comfortable. In most senior facilities, resident’s doors are open and friends come and go freely so you do have to be careful for all the reasons I listed above. It’s not always malicious theft, and usually isn’t, but that doesn’t make your parent feel any better about the “loss”. In the case of the missing hand lotion I encountered, simply putting the bottle out of site solved the problem. We also purchased a less expensive bottle to leave out for those who wished to borrow lotion when in her room…I noticed it didn’t disappear as quickly!
If you find you need an Assisted Living Facility, Nursing Home or any other type of Senior Facility, I hope you will consider www.seniorfacilityfinder.com.
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Bob Gregory is an advocate for Seniors and is one of the founders
of www.seniorfacilityfinder.com. At SeniorFacilityFinder.com, we are dedicated to helping families get the Elder Care help they need without having to provide their personal information! If find you need an assisted living facility or other type of senior facility, please consider www.seniorfacilityfinder.com