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Nursing Homes Should Warn Residents about Sex Offenders In Their Facilities

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Unites States lawmakers are now taking a hard look at sex offenders in nursing homes and long-term care facilities, which has becoming a significant problem and an important component of the issue of nursing home abuse in this country. According to a recent article in USA Today, federal lawmakers are becoming more and more convinced that nursing homes must be required by law to tell people if there is a sex offender present in the nursing home.

Between 2005 and 2006, several states, including California, Illinois, Minnesota and Oklahoma, passed laws requiring that long-term care homes receive notice about sex offenders who are admitted to their facilities. Sex offenders make their way to nursing homes in many ways. Some are sent there from prisons if they need long-term care. Others are admitted to nursing homes by social service agencies.

A U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) report in 2006 found that at least 700 registered sex offenders live in nursing homes and care facilities across the country. The problem here is that the law is not very clear in requiring that nursing homes inform residents and their families about these sex offenders.

Some states require that schools, churches or neighborhoods be notified when sex offenders move in to an area, but few specify that nursing homes be informed when a sex offender is admitted. The same GAO report looked at laws in eight states and found that 50 percent did not mandate that nursing home operators or residents be notified about sex offenders who move in.

This is unacceptable. People who live in nursing homes (and their families) should have the same right to protect themselves as people living in residential neighborhoods. If my mother lives in a nursing home or assisted living facility and there is a sex offender in the next room, I’d want her to know about it and I’d want to be informed about it as well.

Safety advocates say they have documented more than 50 crimes committed by 44 sex offenders and other convicted criminals living in long term care facilities between 2002 and 2006. These nursing home abuse crimes reportedly included sexual assaults, rapes and four murders.

It is one thing if a nursing home does not know they are housing a convicted sex offender. Even so, they should start conducting background checks into some residents especially if their residents are being sent from prisons or other social service agencies. If nursing homes have knowledge of sex offenders being admitted into their homes and withhold that information from other residents, they should be held accountable for any consequent nursing home abuse or crime that occurs in their facility.

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