Personal Injury

Another nursing home resident becomes a victim of financial abuse

There was plenty of money for Margaret Palko’s long-term care – nearly $375,000 in her bank account. The 88-year-old woman relied on Elizabeth DeLeon to provide her care, giving her power of attorney over her finances in 2005. Six months later, Palko’s Alzheimer’s Disease had progressed to the point that she was admitted to Schuylkill Center Nursing Home in the Norwegian Township, according to the Morning Call.

It was DeLeon’s job to make sure Palko’s care was paid for. Instead, she went on a shopping spree, even paying cash for a new car and using Palko’s vehicle as a trade-in. Within two years, Palko was left with just $47 in her bank account and more than $55,000 in nursing home fees.

Last February, DeLeon applied for medical assistance government benefits, which led to the investigation that uncovered the theft.

”In my 18 years on the bench, I’ve never seen one with such an exorbitant amount,” District Judge David Plachko told DeLeon at her arraignment on two felony theft counts and one of theft by failure to properly handle Palko’s finances and pay for her care. While this is the largest fleecing seen by authorities there, District Attorney James Goodman said, “unfortunately, we’re starting to see cases like this, with large amounts.”

Cases of financial abuse are not uncommon among the elderly. In January, we told you about Connie Gay Cole, who conned her grandparents out of nearly a half million dollars. And then there is the story of Larry Bekis, who swindled all the money from his mother’s account leaving her in debt to the nursing home where she lived.

Safe State, a program by the California Attorney General’s Office, offers these tips to help identify the signs of elder financial abuse. Those who suspect financial abuse of a loved one should contact police.