Nursing Home Dilemma: Was Missing Property Lost or Stolen?

Misplaced or stolen belongings are a frequent complaint from nursing home residents, their families and visiting friends.

Because clothing and money are easy to either steal or lose, nursing homes are required to establish formal policies to reduce theft and loss.  Such procedures must include:

  • Training employees on how to respond to allegations of theft and loss.
  • Creating and maintaining an inventory of each patient’s personal property upon admission and throughout his or her stay.
  • Marking each patient’s personal property, including dentures, prosthetic and orthopedic devices.
  • Documenting theft and property loss valued at $25 or more.
  • Reporting stolen property valued at $100 or more to police.

By law, every nursing home must have a written policy and program that details its procedure for responding to allegations of theft and property loss. A copy of that procedure must be given to each resident or resident’s representative when the admission contract is signed.

As soon as someone realizes that property is missing, a member of the nursing home’s staff should be told. The nursing home must then document the lost or stolen items where their total value is $25 or more. Such documentation must include the missing property’s description, its estimated value and the date and time its absence was discovered or reported. If the value of missing property was $100 or more, notification to police must take place within 36 hours.

California’s Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program or LTCOP was established to investigate and attempt to resolve complaints made by or for nursing home residents. Every LTCOP ombudsman must be professionally trained and certified by the State Department of Aging as an advocate to investigate complaints, report findings and mediate fair settlements between individual nursing home residents and the facilities where they reside.

The services provided by LTCOP ombudsmen are all free and confidential, and address a specific resident’s noted issues and concerns, including:

  • Questions about the quality of care being received.
  • Questions addressing allegations of financial abuse.
  • Suspected incidences of physical, mental or emotional abuse.
  • Suspected theft.
  • Dignity issues.

Nursing home facilities are required to post, in a conspicuous location, a telephone number for the nearest Ombudsman Office.

Wise & Healthy Aging Long-Term Ombudsman Program serving Los Angeles County, can be reached at 800-334-9473. California’s statewide CRISISline, which accepts calls and refers complaints to appropriate LTCOP ombudsmen 24 hours a day, and 7 days a week, can be reached at 800-231-4024.