Nursing Home Criminal Background Checks Offer False Sense of Security

If you are evaluating long-term care facilities for an aging parent, ask if management runs criminal background checks on all their employees. But don’t let a “yes” answer give you a false sense of secruity.

That’s because nursing homes in 33 states only run criminal background checks for their own states — not national checks. Which means that it’s way too easy for someone with a criminal background to get a nursing home job in a different state.

But even criminal background check advocates say that lack of a national system is just part of the problem. According to one district attorney from Massachusetts…

…background checks aren’t a silver bullet against elder abuse. ”They do not solve the problem of abuse of senior citizens. [If a nursing home] runs a background check and it turns out the employee has no criminal record, that doesn’t mean they aren’t going to potentially abuse somebody… The most important thing you can do to protect nursing home patients is to make sure your staff is adequately monitored and supervised. It’s not who you hired — it is protecting your patients.”

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Still, a mandatory national criminal background check system is a step in the right direction towards protecting older Americans from nursing home abuse and financial elder abuse. Especially in light of the recent U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services report that 92 percent of U.S. nursing homes have at least one convicted criminal on staff.