The following question was asked of a random group of Journal of Gerontological Nursing readers:
Theft in the nursing home is something we seldom read or hear about. Is this an issue in your setting? How can geronfofogrcaf nurses address this issue in their nursing home?
When seeking employees for any position, information should be given stating the penalties which will be enforced if theft is ever a factor.
During the final interview for employment, have available rules and regulations that you give the prospective employee in writing. So it is important that the institution first should set its parameters. These should be very clear and concise so that the employee does not have to guess what they are or what they include.
Dorothy Phillips, RN, C
Special Projects Coordinator
Bradley Memorial Hospital
Although the nursing staff should discourage the residents from having too many monetary possessions, one needs to remember the importance of possessions to older adults. Older adults need their possessions that remind them of their former independent life. Theft of one's possessions in the nursing home, therefore, adds to the older adult's previous losses with aging. Nurses in the nursing home setting should educate the staff about theories of aging and how important possessions are to the older adult's well-being.
Koren A. Schwarz, PhD1 RN
Assistant Professor of Nursing
The University of Akron
Theft is an issue though not a huge one considering how large our facility is. All belongings are inventoried and labeled with residents' names upon admission and families are encouraged to take home belongings that won't be used.
We're currently revising our property sheet to create a more accurate log of property coming in or out of the facility.
Theft of hospital property is another problem and anything of value is secured and engraved with the hospital name and date. Security is notified of all theft and can monitor suspicious activity according to their protocols.
Assistant Director of Nursing
Laguna Honda Hospital
San Francisco, California
The incidence of reported theft in Mountain Home's extended care facility is very low, probably 1 to 2 per quarter and actual theft is very questionable. At Mountain Home's extended care facility a patient's valuables inventory is part of the patient's nursing assessment forms. If a patient chooses not to send their valuables (that they at that time of their physical nursing assessment have on their person), home with their significant other, they can have them placed for safekeeping in a valuables safe operated by administrative services. Patients who choose to keep their valuables at their bedside assume all responsibility for them.
The few times when a patient does report items missing the nursing staff will find the missing items in bed linens or soiled garments. Items of value reported missing and not found are then reported to security personnel who file a report for a follow-up investigation.
Barry Neal Bentiey, BS, BSN, MS
Nursing Home Care Unit N
Mountain Home, Tennessee
Theft is a sporadic problem in this nursing center. We have been fortunate that medication theft is not a problem. Generally the items "missing" are either residents' jewelry or facility equipment (our facility's mobile phone, a wall hanging and a captain's chair have disappeared). Ironically, after one of our RN supervisors left our employment, these types of theft were eliminated. I state this to stress that you cannot eliminate any level of employee as suspect. And with an open door policy for visitors, you can never overlook that possibility.
The majority of thefts are reported to the local police. Families are encouraged to not bring things of value to their loved ones.
I fear that with the upcoming changes in health care (decreased financial income leads to decreased staffing and wages) the theft problem will increase. Criminal checks are done on all new hires. Security cameras may be of limited help due to privacy issues. We encourage all employees to be vigilant for suspicious actions.
LaVonne Roselli, RNC
Director of Nursing
Harborside Health Care of Tampa Bay
Unfortunately, on rare occasions residents' personal belongings come up missing. Most belongings are recovered because they were misplaced. However, money is difficult to recover when missing. There are several procedures which should be in place in order to minimize theft.
First, train staff to complete a belongings list with each admission. Remember to use objective descriptions of jewelry. Have two staff members count any money and cosign the inventory. We encourage residents to keep large sums of money in their bank accounts versus on their person. Remind family members to stop at the desk when removing or adding personal items so that staff may make addenda to the belongings list. Second, label residents' belongings with their name upon admission and with each addition so they can be identified if misplaced. Third, monitor your residents. Be aware of wanderers who may pick up items during their travels. Instruct staff to supervise wandering residents. Fourth, inservice staff, during orientation and periodically thereafter, on the losses experienced by elders placed in long-term care facilities and as staff's responsibility to maintain a safe, secure home environment for all residents place in their care.
Following the aforementioned procedures minimizes the risks of theft in long-term care facilities.
Michele Gríngerí, ADN
Certified Gerontoiogical Nurse
Unit I Supervisor
Charlene Manor Extended Care Facility
This question was submitted by Diana Harris and Michael Benson of the University of Tennessee College of Arts & Sciences, Department of Sociology, and Kathleen C. Buckwalter, PhD, of the University of Iowa College of Nursing.
A problem that has long existed in the nursing home industry is the theft of residents' personal possessions. Yet we seldom hear or read much about it. The problem has been well hidden. In some nursing homes, theft appears to be such a common occurrence that an investigative television reporter in California was able to videotape two nursing home employees stealing jewelry from a patient by installing a camera in a patient's room (Brooks, 1994).
Nursing home residents' few personal possessions are often of great sentimental value to them. Their theft can be both psychologically and emotionally devastating, and can lead to an increased sense of insecurity and even to a loss of identity. As Kayser-Jones (1981) states:
"Theft of personal possessions is an overt type of victimization; the theft of patients' food, clothing, money, jewelry and other personal belongings is quite common...The prevalence of theft has a harmful effect on the aged; they live in fear that their few possessions will be taken. It is frightening, of course, for them to have to depend for care on those who are stealing their belongings" (pp. 51, 53).
Many nursing home employees and administrators to whom we have talked have said that no resident should have money, jewelry, or good clothing in a nursing home. "If these items are taken," we hear again and again, "it is the patient's own fault for having them. " Actually, no personal possessions are safe from theft, even those of little value. As a result, some of the elderly are forced to live out their lives in rooms devoid of possessions that hold memories for them and tie them to the past.
The problem of theft not only plagues the patients in nursing homes but their families as well. A recent survey of 70 nursing homes but their families as well, a recent survey of 70 nursing home administrators regarding the most prevalent areas of dissatisfaction by patients' families found that the theft of their relatives' possessions appeared near the top of their list of the complaints (Vinton & Mazza, 1994).
Nursing homes continue to be one of the fastest growing industries in this country. Today there are over 1.7 million nursing home patients and by 2000 the nursing home population is expected to increase to 2 million. With the proliferation of the nursing home population, as well as the nursing homes themselves, we can speculate that the problem of nursing home theft will only worsen if measures are not taken now to ameliorate it. Until nursing home theft is brought out into the open and begins to receive the attention that it deserves, little can be done to prevent or reduce its occurrence.
- Brooks, S. (1994, August). Covert TV footage misses full story in nursing home forays. Contemporary Long Term Care, 12.
- Kayser-Jones, J.S. (1981). Old, alone, and neglected: Care of the aged in Scotland and the United States. Berkeley, CA: The University of California Press.
- Vinton, L. & Mazza, N. ( 1994)Aggressive behavior directed at nursing home personnel by residents' family members. The Gerontohgist, 34, 528-533.