The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of the Inspector General issued a report that concludes that more than 90 percent of nursing homes employ one or more people who have been convicted of at least one crime. Five percent of all nursing home employees working in 92 percent of facilities have at least one criminal conviction.
To qualify this, most often, criminal convictions were for crimes against property (e.g., burglary, shoplifting, and writing bad checks) and occurred prior to employment. For 16 percent of employees with convictions, the most recent offense occurred after they had started work in a nursing home.
The report also noted that most States required, and/or nursing facilities reported conducting, some type of background check.
HHS recommended that CMS develop background check procedures and develop lists of convictions that disqualify individuals from employment, as well as defining whether any of those conviction types can be assumed to be mitigated because of the passage of time and which convictions should never be considered mitigated or rehabilitated.
Senator Herb Kohl, Democrat of Wisconsin, who has investigated nursing homes as chairman of the Aging Committee, told the New York Times“The current system of background checks is haphazard, inconsistent and full of gaping holes in many states. Predators can easily evade detection during the hiring process, securing jobs that allow them to assault, abuse and steal from defenseless elders.”
In my about.com blog I have written about the federal program here. It is full of issues.
I think the bigger issue for the industry is a PR one.
And for consumers, the lesson is clear. When investigating a home for your loved one, whether nursing homes or assisted living, make sure to ask about the use of background checks. But don’t settle for an answer on that they perform them. Ask how they perform them. And use this study to ask questions about whether the home you are looking at was impacted by this study.