What to do with sex offenders in long-term care?

One of the first stories I tackled when joining Long-Term Living three years ago was a Q&A interview with patient care advocate Wes Bledsoe, who at that time was making headlines for supporting the creation of standalone LTC facilities that house sex offenders. Looking back, the interview ended up asking more questions than it answered, because regulators still haven’t figured out what to do with these people.

The problem has since been dusted off and thrust back into public discourse in Iowa, where Gov. Terry Branstad disclosed earlier this week that he’s convened a working group of four state agency heads to review the state’s laws on sex offenders. The action was spurred by a recent high-profile scandal: a case alleging that an 83-year-old man—also a registered sex offender—sexually assaulted a 95-year-old nursing home resident. The man moved into the nursing home after a judge ordered him to be transferred from the state civil commitment unit for sex offenders into an LTC facility to meet his heightened care needs.

Branstad said the working group will examine whether or not residents and their families should be notified when a sex offender moves to their nursing home, along with looking at potential legislative remedies through a review of existing laws. In other words, he’s showing that he’s taking a stand—then punting the issue to other experts to discover a solution.

The governor’s response is consistent with how many regulators have approached the subject: No one is certain what to do with these people despite sexual assault being a persistent problem that greatly upsets the public. As Bledsoe told me years ago, “They are human beings and we have to provide them with an appropriate level of care, ensuring that their special needs are being met in a facility with a heightened sense of security.”

The Des Moines Register points out how some states have addressed the problem:

Oklahoma, California, Illinois and Minnesota have laws requiring government agencies to notify the owners of long-term care facilities when sex offenders are directed there by the courts.

In Texas, the state is required by law to inform a care facility’s neighbors that a sex offender lives there, but it need not inform other residents of the facility.

In Virginia, care facilities need not notify other residents when a sex offender moves in, but they are required to make sure all residents know how to access that state’s sex offender registry so they can do the research on their own — assuming they’re capable and have access to a computer.

What do you believe is an appropriate solution?

Topics: Facility management , Risk Management