Wednesday, February 28, 2007

From the Folks Who Brought You “Friendly Fire”

Lisa Nerenberg, Consultant, Speaker, Trainer

What do the U.S. military and the long-term care network have in common?
It seems we’re competing for the same criminals reformed,(hopefully) to fill critical manpower shortages. In our case, the shortage is for nursing home employees and in-home attendants. In theirs, it’s for soldiers to fight an unpopular war. We’re both struggling with the uncertainties of deciding when past criminal conduct should not stand in the way. The military’s approach is to issue an increasing number of “moral waivers,” which permit would-be personnel who’ve committed disqualifying offenses to serve. ...the number of moral waivers granted to Army recruits with criminal backgrounds has grown nearly 65% in the past 3 years. the pool of long-term care workers is depleted, the number of people with criminal histories being hired by nursing homes and frail elders has gone up (See Criminal Caregivers). In Texas, where people with certain convictions are barred from working in long-term care facilities or home health care settings, employers are provided with reports of all potential employees’ convictions. In 1995, facilities received reports on 3.4% of the potential employees. By 2000, that percentage had risen to 9.1%. A 2005 study of nursing homes in Michigan found that almost 10% of the state’s nursing home employees had criminal backgrounds, which included homicide, criminal sexual conduct, weapon charges, and drug offenses.

Given the current shortages, our network, like the military, has to make allowances.

What we do know about recidivism isn’t reassuring. A study commissioned by the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (DHHS), Ensuring a Qualified Long Term Care Workforce: From Pre-Employment Screens to On-the-Job Monitoring, looked at whether nursing home employees with criminal histories are more likely to commit abuse. They are.

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