November 17, 2004

Criminal Checks of Nursing Home Residents?

On November 15, 2004, CBS news reported on an incident involving alleged resident-on- resident sexual abuse in a Florida nursing home. The resident-suspect, a man in his 80's, had been found wandering the streets by Florida law enforcement. A Florida court declared him a "vulnerable adult ... in need of protective services." Thus, the officials caused him to be admitted to the nursing home--where he allegedly sexually abused another resident.

Buried further down in the story, it is noted that Florida officials did not know of the resident's criminal background--and those officials emphasized that criminal background checks of residents is not required.

The story also talks about a nursing facility in Minnesota that was shut down as a result of the actions of geriatric prisoners transferred to those homes:

Minnesota's Atttorney General Mike Hatch just shut down one nursing home after sex offenders transferred from prisons were caught fondling, beating and sexually assaulting other residents.

"What the hell is going on here? How could you put sex offenders in with vulnerable adults?" says Hatch. "You put them in a locked ward with the women locked in?"

When you read this story, notice that the other side of the stories--those of the nursing homes--is not told. In the case of the Florida incident, that is because the family is suing the nursing home. CBS is, therefore, carrying water for the plaintiff's personal injury lawyer. Would it be too much for a competent journalist to ask why those in the best position to get criminal information--like the Court and law enforcement didn't do that before placing the man? Do you wonder what those official's reactions would have been had the facility requested such information before agreeing to admit?

As for the Minnesota situation--wouldn't a competent journalist interested in adhering to the Code of Ethics for Professional Journalists have seen fit to discuss exactly how those facilities got those prisoners and what information was given regarding the backgrounds of the prisoners? Doesn't the situation suggest to a reasonable person that the Minnesota Prison System had a problem dealing with geriatric prisoners and looked outside the system for help--and shouldn't that be discussed in the story?'s much more gratifying to blame nursing homes and attribute outcomes like this to reasons such as:

The answer may be money. When prisoners of all ages fill empty nursing home beds, Medicaid or Medicare pays the bill.

So, the next time a governmental entity or probate court seeks to do you a favor by providing you admissions--remember this story and take precautions to protect yourself and your facility. (like insisting on full information)