Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Nursing Home Sex Offenders: Predators Living with Prey (Video 6:05 mins.)

Virginia Thurston, almost eighty years old and suffering from dementia, was sexually assaulted by another resident in her Jacksonville, Florida nursing home. The rapist, who had been sent to the home after being found homeless, had a twenty-page criminal record that included sexual assault and child molestation. A judge had declared him vulnerable and in need of protective care.

Unfortunately, most nursing homes are only required to do criminal background checks on employees. Residents with criminal records can be assigned to nursing homes with no one knowing their dangerous histories. Wes Bledsoe, an elder rights advocate, says he has tracked over 1600 sex offenders living in nursing homes. Most homes do not impose different supervision or separation requirements on residents who are known sex offenders.

The man who raped Virginia Thurston was found incompetent to stand trial and placed in a state home. What about all the other predators who remain? While some say that knowledge of residents’ criminal history does not determine their current conditions, others say sexual offenders should be in separate nursing home facilities. Oklahoma is the first state that takes registered sex offenders requiring long-term care out of standard nursing homes. In the meantime, caregivers must be vigilant in checking their patients for signs of emotional or physical abuse and personality changes. They should also be proactive in dealing with nursing home safety measures, including behavioral and physical patient assessments.

Frances Shani Parker, Author
"Becoming Dead Right: A Hospice Volunteer in Urban Nursing Homes”
Hospice and Nursing Homes Blog

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