» ASHLIE TALLEY – atalley2@my.apsu.edu

Recently, The Leaf Chronicle published an article involving a woman indicted on charges of abuse and neglect of a special needs patient over whom she was put in charge. Authorities say the patient was left unattended for an unknown amount of time. The patient’s face was covered in mucus from the mouth down, and she was covered in her own urine and feces.

Unfortunately, this behavior is not uncommon in such facilities. Nursing homes, facilities that specialize in catering to the needs of the elderly and mentally ill, have become closely associated with abuse and neglect over the years.

It’s obvious that many of the employees in these facilities have no concern for the human beings they care for. The people who hire these employees may have even less concern for the quality of employee they are hiring.

A government study was conducted in May 2012 of nursing home employees that may have the answer to why the phenomenon of abuse and neglect is so common. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, the study concluded that 92 percent of nursing homes in the country have shown a complete lack of concern for an employee’s criminal past by retaining five percent of the overall staff in these nursing homes were found to have been convicted of one more crimes. At least one employee retained on staff of the 92 percent of nursing homes that hire persons with previous convictions had been convicted of abuse.

This means if a nursing home has a staff of about 170 employees, there is a 92 percent chance that eight of its employees have been convicted of at least one crime either before or during their employment at the facility and at least one has been convicted of abuse.

The reality of these unsettling numbers raises a lot of questions about the requirements a person needs in order to care for our loved ones. It is important to state that there are substantial requirements needed to work in these facilities, like, for example, proper education. However, proper education does not hinder a person from being abusive.

By federal law, it is illegal to hire a person for nursing home employment if they’ve had criminal pasts, primarily those of abuse, neglect and assault. However, because it is not required by federal law that nursing homes do background checks, things become muddled at the state level.

Almost all nursing homes claim to do background checks even though it isn’t technically required, but they only obtain background only on a state level. Each state focuses primarily on its own boundaries. It will only do a background check on a person’s history as far back as they’ve been living in the state which they are applying to work in.

So if a person living in one state and applying to work in a nursing home there has a criminal past in another state, their background check only applies to the state they currently live in.

Upon discovering these facts, the government has taken measure to ensure the hiring process in nursing

homes becomes slightly more

stringent. The Secretary of Health and Human Services has initiated a
program that will require all states to do state and nationwide background checks for all employees who will be having direct contact with the patients. Also, they recommend the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services perform the two following actions: “clearly define the employee classifications that are direct patient access employees” and “ work with participating states to develop a list of state and local convictions that disqualify an individual from nursing facility employment”, as well as “periods for which each conviction bars an individual from employment”. TAS