Should Background Checks Be Required for Nursing Home Residents?

Should Background Checks Be Required for Nursing Home Residents?

People are at risk for violent attacks and sexual assaults committed by convict residents who need skilled nursing care, and criminal background checks should be required for anyone applying to become a resident of a nursing home or assisted living facility. Background checks to screen out sex offenders and other violent criminals may be a way to protect the vulnerable residents of nursing homes. In Illinois, Texas, Florida, Louisiana, Maryland and Virginia, criminal background checks are already required for applicants.

Problem of Sexual Assaults in Nursing Homes

According to a long-term care facility watchdog, hundreds of thousands of nursing home residents are at risk for sexual assault, murder, and other violent crimes. They live in facilities with rapists and people with violent histories, and many of these individuals are repeat offenders.

Elderly adults in nursing homes are often targeted by sex offenders because they are less likely to be able to defend themselves or even to talk about what has happened to them. Some older adults may have conditions that make it impossible for them to communicate, and others may feel afraid to tell anyone.

In a recent Pennsylvania case, the estate of a woman sued a nursing home for a sexual assault that she suffered by another resident. The other resident had a previous sex assault conviction and targeted the victim because she suffered from dementia. Despite the fact that the care facility knew about the man’s criminal history, the nursing home allowed him to remain a resident.

Background Checks May Help

While background checks are unlikely to completely eliminate the problem of sexual assaults in nursing homes, they could greatly reduce the risks for innocent residents. A problem that is confronting nursing homes across the nation is what to do about potential residents who need skilled nursing care but who have criminal convictions for sex offenses or acts of violence. Some states have separate facilities that only house convicts. Many states do not require background checks of residents but do for staff. Nursing home residents should not have to fear abuse, and background checks may be a potential solution to protect them.

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