A recent investigation of nursing homes by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services showed that conducting background checks would have likely flagged some but not all nursing aides who were later disciplined. According to an NPR report, the investigation looked at cases of 1,611 nursing aides who were disciplined for abuse, neglect and theft at nursing homes in 2010. About 20 percent of these aides had prior criminal convictions that would have surfaced in a simple background check.
The article states that on the one hand, it is evident that a straightforward background check could have prevented those with criminal records from working in a nursing home, putting vulnerable senior citizens at risk. On the other hand, it is also troubling that 80 percent of those who were ultimately disciplined could not have been screened with background checks.
It is no doubt disturbing that nursing homes continue to hire aides with rap sheets, including those who have been convicted of violent crimes such as assault, battery and rape. The investigation found that a majority of the disciplined nurse aides had been convicted of property crimes such as burglary or theft. Three of the nurse aides had registered as sex offenders before they were disciplined by the facilities.
It is important nurse’s aides be closely monitored because they tend to have close contact with patients than registered nurses. Aides are staff members, for example, who clean, bathe and change patients. Typically, there is also a lot of turnover in this staffing category. Nursing aides are paid only minimum wage and receive very basic training. Many nursing homes do not take the time to perform background checks on aides despite the fact that they receive federal grants to support background checks of employees.
Nursing homes have a legal responsibility to protect their residents from abuse and neglect. Federal regulations require nursing homes to conduct background checks before allowing an individual to care for residents. Unfortunately, as this study shows, many nursing homes are not diligent when it comes to background checks. If nursing home abuse or neglect occurs as a result of negligent hiring on the part of nursing homes, victims can seek compensation for damages by filing a personal injury lawsuit against the nursing home.
Some of the more serious injuries that may occur from a facility’s lax hiring practices include abuse (physical, emotional, sexual), restraint injuries, bruises, falls and fractures. Financial abuse may occur if a staff member takes advantage of the disabled or frail, elderly residents. Scams, check fraud and credit card fraud are some examples of financial abuse that may happen at a nursing home. An experienced California nursing home abuse attorney will be able to better advise victims and their families about their legal rights and options.