More than 9 out of 10 nursing homes in the United States employ people convicted of crimes, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.
The Department’s Office of the Inspector General has issued a study, “Nursing Facilities’ Employment of Individuals With Criminal Convictions,” which finds that 92% of all nursing homes place elderly residents in the care of people with criminal histories. Nearly half of all nursing home facilities employ five or more convicts. Some homes in the study’s random sample employed dozens of former criminals; one facility employed 66.
On average, 5% of a nursing home’s direct-care staff—those in close contact with the elderly—will have a criminal history. Most convictions are for burglary, shoplifting, and other property crimes. Over 13% have been found guilty of violent offenses, including assault.
Nursing homes are required, in 42 states, to conduct criminal background checks as a routine part of the employee screening process. But, only some convictions will automatically disqualify an applicant—those that show a tendency towards violent crime.
Background checks are not required at all in Alabama, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Montana, North and South Dakota, and Wyoming.
The study’s authors call for the creation of a national standard for background checks, including a uniform list of crimes that will automatically disqualify a potential nursing home employee.