If you have an elderly loved one in a San Diego nursing home, should the prevalence of sex offenders within the facility impact how you gauge your relative’s personal safety and risk of nursing home abuse? We are not referring to convicted sex offenders who are working at nursing homes or assisted-living facilities, but rather convicted sex offenders who themselves are seniors and require attention in a facility designed for the elderly. Do such situations increase the likelihood of elder sexual abuse in the nursing home setting?
Notifying Nursing Homes About Residents on the Sex Offender Registry
A recent article in the Dayton Daily News raised this question, pointing out that in California the law requires the Department of Corrections or another agency to notify the nursing home if a person who is listed on the sex offender registry plans to move into a care facility. In the event that a government agency does not report this information, it is up to the offender to self-report that she or he is on the sex offender registry. In addition, nursing homes in San Diego and across the state are required to “notify all residents and employees,” according to the article. But are those steps sufficient to protect other residents from the risk of elder sexual abuse? On a related note, does the risk of being a victim of elder sexual abuse increase when an elderly person on the sex offender registry moves into a nursing home?
According to a report from the U.S. Department of Justice, elder sexual abuse is already a problem that is “under-reported and under-diagnosed.” When it is reported or identified, however, do offenders share certain characteristics? In many cases, the report suggests, offenders have some type of personal relationship with the victim. Numerous cases cited involve an offender who is also a caregiver for the elderly person. There are limited statistics about recidivism concerning sex offenders who are also residents in nursing homes.
At the same time, however, the report does indicate that many cases of elder sexual abuse do not move forward beyond the stage of investigation. Even when elder sexual abuse is reported, the report indicates that such a crime
“present[s] unique challenges to the victim, the providers, and the criminal justice system.” In particular, victims who suffer from Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia may be less likely to see their cases prosecuted, as some believe that “the presence of dementia reduces the likelihood of a fair and impartial assessment and application of the law.”
How Do Registered Sex Offenders End Up in Nursing Homes?
You might be wondering how a registered sex offender could end up living next door to your elderly relative in a San Diego nursing home. In short, as an article in USA Today points out, there are a number of different ways in which convicted sex offenders come to reside in nursing facilities. In some cases, they come directly from prison because they require long-term care. In other cases, they may be living on their own in the community but have aged or have developed a medical condition that requires long-term care.
Yet it is important to recognize that the presence of a registered sex offender does not necessarily mean that your elderly loved one is at risk of elder sexual abuse. The USA Today article underscores how “not all residents with criminal pasts are going to cause problems.” The article explains, “the degree of risk and the degree of the problem will be related to how well the facility is managed.”
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(image courtesy of Joaquim Alves Gaspar)