Seniors at Risk: Sex Offenders, Parolees Living at Nursing Homes

Watchdog group finds 1,600 sex offenders living at nursing homes across the US.

ByABC News
March 12, 2009, 4:59 PM

July 22, 2008— -- Hundreds of thousands of senior citizens are at risk because they are living among registered sex offenders, parolees and residents with violent histories, according to a nursing home watchdog who studied residents at nursing homes, assisted living homes and long term care facilities.

"What is shocking is we have now found 1,600 registered sex offenders across the country [in facilities with seniors]," said Wes Bledsoe, who is set to testify tomorrow at a Congressional hearing on predators in these facilities. Bledsoe tracked the number of offenders living at these homes over the past four years by matching addresses from sex offender registries with a database of care facilities from Medicare.

Bledsoe said that in many of these cases the offenders are young adults who are often placed in the facilities because of disabilities or behavioral problems.

"We found teenagers, two nineteen year olds living in these facilities, many in their twenties, thirties, and forties," Bledsoe said.

"We have also documented over 60 rapes, murders, and assaults committed by criminal offenders in these facilities," he said.

Pennsylvania Attorney Sean McDonough will appear at the hearing to speak about Lillian Guernsey, who was 86 years-old in 2002 when she was raped by another resident at a Pennsylvania facility. The assailant, a 31 year old fellow resident, had eight prior adult arrests, three convictions and two adult commitments to correctional facilities before he arrived at the home, according to McDonough's statement. Her assailant is now in prison, convicted of rape and sexual assault.

And six years to the day after her elderly mother was raped in a Florida nursing home, Sandra Banning will also testify.

Banning said she had no choice but to place her mother Virginia Thurston in a nursing home after Thurston, who suffered from dementia, was repeatedly found wandering the streets alone in the middle of the night.

"Growing up, Momma always said, 'If you place me in a nursing home, I'd never forgive you'," said Banning. "But that's what we had to do for her safety."