One of my all-time favorite movie scenes is from The Pink Panther Strikes Again where Inspector Jacques Clouseau (played by legendary actor Peter Sellers) inquires of the innkeeper, “Does your dog bite?”
While reaching to pet the animal, Clouseau is viciously attacked causing him to yell in shock, “I thought you said that your dog does not bite!?”
“THAT is not my dog.” The innkeeper calmly replies.
Despite seeing it hundreds of times, I still laugh at that scene. As most of you know, the plot of the Pink Panther movie series revolves around the heist of a famous large pink-hued diamond and Clouseau’s ensuing shenanigans pursuing the thieves.
But it’s not so funny when mother or father loses precious jewelry or other valuables while in assisted living or nursing home care.
Anecdotally, the loss of keepsakes and valuables appears to happen quite frequently when a loved one is in the care of another, whether in their own residence or in an assisted living facility. Unfortunately, when valuables disappear, they are almost never recovered, and it’s very hard to prove who may be responsible. Further, most assisted living facilities are not contractually liable for valuable items lost or stolen while one is in their care.
I’m not, by the way, accusing all health care workers of committing theft. I’m sure many such caretakers have been accused of taking items that were long ago lost, but faulty memories lead to false accusations. With that said, enough valuables have disappeared from the homes of those being cared for or from the rooms in assisted living facilities that residents should consider taking precautionary steps to avoid the heartache of losing an item near and dear to their hearts.
So let’s review what steps you may want to consider before moving yourself or another loved one into a residence where others are readily present.
First, if one owns valuables that one doesn’t often wear, consider storing them in a bank safety deposit box. The annual charges are well worth the investment to ensure that your valuables aren’t prone to those who may have sticky fingers. When you have a safe deposit box, it is usually a good idea to have a trusted relative as a signor on the box, and for you to advise the bank location and box number that you have rented as well as where your key is stored.
Second, if you have already considered giving some or all of your valuables away to loved ones now (as opposed to bequeathing them in a will), you may get the added benefit of watching your loved ones enjoy the gifts. Here you should consider getting appraisals and filing gift tax returns if you or your spouse is likely to have to file a federal estate tax return.
Third, if you don’t already have riders covering the valuables on your homeowner’s or renter’s policy, speak to your insurance agent. Your agent will tell you what steps should be taken to guard against loss. Most of the time, however, it is not the financial loss that hurts when losing jewelry and other keepsakes; it is the emotional loss as well. To that end, if you decide to give jewelry that is already covered by an insurance rider, make sure that you remove the rider from the policy after the gift is completed.
I have known some who use modern surveillance equipment to record video of those who work in the home. While I don’t believe that this is the best option, it could catch a thief red-handed, so to speak, and lead to the recovery of the item if discovered soon enough after the heist.
I believe that the takeaway from all of this is that those who are vulnerable should work to minimize the opportunity of those who might be interested in taking valuables by not having them around to begin with.
After all, most of us don’t have a trusted manservant like Clouseau’s Cato Fong – who would never steal anything. Instead, Cato would rather karate chop the inspector upon his arrival from home after a hard day’s work.
So don’t end up like Chief Inspector Dreyfus who eventually ended up in the funny farm (pun intended!). When you or a loved one is in need of assisted living or nursing home care, don’t forget to secure the valuables.
© 2018 Craig R. Hersch. Originally published in the Sanibel Island Sun.