States Propose Background Checks for Better Elderly Care

Abuse, from sexual and physical to financial, is significantly present in elderly care in the United States. Such instances, as well, have potential to happen regardless of whether the elderly individual lives at home, where he or she is monitored by a caretaker, or is moved to a nursing home or similar care facility. Because of the likelihood of such instances happening, two states in early January proposed legislation for better regulation, and ultimately improved safety, in elderly care.

In New York, more thorough criminal background checks were proposed as a solution to stop sex offenders from obtaining employment at senior care facilities. Such centers would be required to not only conduct a criminal background check but to also examine the sex offender registry for all new employees.

In December, Minnesota legislatures pushed for better background checks for home caretakers, and such screenings would not only involve checking criminal records but would also examine if an applicant has ever declared bankruptcy or was denied a professional license; such individuals, then, would not be eligible for elderly care.

Lawmakers in Minnesota are now looking to make federal and state level changes with the above point in mind, particularly as guardians and conservators will likely be needed in greater quantities in the future. Along with the stricter background checks, guardians of elderly individuals would be monitored electronically and would be screened every two years.

This issue stems from a 1995 case involving then-caretaker Terri Hauge. Not only was she stealing from her elderly clients, she mismanaged their finances and left apartments in squalid conditions. One family member, in discussing the “care” Hauge gave, said to the press: “[Hauge] initially said she would be providing financial records and things to us, which we never saw, and she did so many financial maneuvers that you couldn’t sort financial records out once she turned some in.”

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