Ever since I was taught by Carole Herman, founder of Foundation Aiding the Elderly, who helps seniors across the country, about what goes on in nursing homes to our parents and grandparents unlucky enough to wind up in a bad one—and there are far too many that are very bad—I have been concerned about the issue.
Carole is one of a group of people whose selfless work I had admired for years and when I converted to Catholicism, I discovered all of them were Catholic; which told me a lot about the Church’s teaching and the impact it has had on many people.
This article from the Chicago Tribune reveals the additional problems when nursing homes begin accepting offenders whose continued criminal activity now becomes directed against one of the most defenseless populations in our country.
“An elderly woman is raped in her room, and police arrest a 21-year-old ex-convict with acute psychiatric problems. When the victim is interviewed by investigators five days later, she shakes with fear.
“A frail man blind in one eye is slashed in the throat by a gang member, police say. About a year earlier, the same assailant allegedly had stabbed him in the face with an ice pick.
“A man in a wheelchair dies of head injuries so severe that his doctor says it looked like he was hit with a baseball bat. One of the suspects is a 24-year-old mentally ill woman with a history of drug use and prostitution.
“These incidents didn’t happen on a street corner, in an alley or inside a drug house.
“They all took place inside Illinois nursing homes in the last 17 months, highlighting a new, volatile environment in some facilities where the elderly and sick expect a measure of care and peace.
“More than any other state, Illinois relies heavily on nursing homes to house mentally ill patients, including those who have committed crimes. But a Tribune investigation found that government, law enforcement and the industry have failed to adequately manage the resulting influx of younger residents who shuttle into nursing facilities from jail cells, shelters and psychiatric wards.
“Mentally ill patients now constitute more than 15 percent of the state’s total nursing home population of 92,225, government records show, and the number of residents convicted of serious felonies has increased to 3,000. Among them are 82 convicted murderers, 179 sex offenders and 185 armed robbers.
“Yet the state’s background checks on new residents are riddled with errors and omissions that understate their criminal records, the Tribune found, and homes with the most felons are among those with the lowest nursing staff levels.
“Meanwhile, state authorities don’t track assaults and other crimes in nursing homes, making it difficult to uncover patterns and address the problems caused by unstable individuals.”