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Handling Theft and Loss Problems in Nursing Homes  
Two of the most common problems experienced by residents of nursing homes are loss or theft of personal items. Missing items may include clothing, dentures, eyeglasses, jewelry, radios, televisions, money, food and similar possessions. Loss of a personal possession is always upsetting. For nursing home residents, it adds to existing feelings of insecurity, loss of dignity and self-worth.

What Are My Rights Regarding Safety and Storage of Personal Possessions?

All Georgia nursing homes must:

  • Give residents reasonable space for personal possessions and allow residents to retain and use personal clothing and possessions as this space permits.
  • Provide for the safekeeping of personal possessions and funds, as requested by residents, except for personal property which would impose an unreasonable burden on the nursing home.
  • Have procedures for marking, laundering, ironing and mending clothing of each resident.
  • Individually store clothing of each resident.
  • Have an inventory system for resident clothing in order to prevent and control loss or theft insofar as possible.

What Are Remedies to Replace a Lost or Stolen Item?

  • It is important not to assume that a missing item has been stolen. As in your own home, it is possible to misplace an item and not be able to find it. Many times a cooperative search effort by staff and resident or family will turn up the missing item.
  • If theft is suspected, a report should be filed with the administrator of the facility. A report to the police should also be considered. Although the police may have difficulty gathering sufficient evidence to prove theft, their involvement may help deter future problems.
  • Ask the facility to replace the item. As noted earlier, Georgia nursing homes must allow residents to retain and use personal possessions. Georgia law creates an obligation on the facility which cannot be waived by the provisions in the home's admission contract. Most facilities carry insurance to cover loss or theft. You should urge them to file a claim or compensate you in some other way.
  • Check coverage under your Homeowner's Insurance policy. It is possible that it may cover losses in a nursing home. If not, you might want to see if the policy can be extended so coverage will be available in the future.
  • As a last resort, file a claim in Small Claims Court. Small Claims Courts are a division of District Courts. These courts handle claims of up to $5,000 in a simple and informal manner. Attorneys are not needed or allowed to practice in Small Claims Court and filing fees are very reasonable. If you feel that you should be compensated by a long term care facility which refuses to do so, Small Claims Court will provide you an opportunity to have your case heard without great expense. More details about Small Claims Court can be obtained at your County Clerk's office.


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