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AARP: No parolees in nursing homes.

In a case of "Not Welcome Here," the American Association of Retired Persons in Illinois is up in arms over the fact that recent parolees are sometimes placed in nursing homes, side by side with vulnerable elderly residents.

Illinois officials and nursing home owners say the practice is legitimate: ex-convicts cannot be denied nursing care because they have committed crimes Nursing homes in other states also house some parolees. But the AARP and other patient advocates are afraid that the state is placing inappropriate people, especially parolees with mental problems, into nursing homes.

Donna Ginther, an AARP lobbyist in Springfield, Ill., said the issue stems from a 2001 incident in an Illinois nursing home in which a parolee raped an Alzheimer's patient. "After that, new protective policies were put in place," Ginther said. "We thought parolees were no longer part of the general nursing home population."

Last fall, AARP discovered that about 70 parolees--some with a history of violent crime and at least half under the age of 65--had been placed in nursing homes by the Illinois Department of Corrections. The number has since been reduced to 33, Ginther said.

Under state law, the DOC is required to help all parolees find a place to live when released from prison. This includes nursing home placement if the parolee needs nursing care, said Brian Fairchild, a spokesman for the Corrections Department.

"We do placements with the utmost concern for public safety, balanced with the constitutional protection that any citizens--parolees included--have to non-discriminatory placement," Fairchild said.

He notes that only 33 out of 33,000 paroles statewide are in nursing homes.

But Ginther is not sure that the screening process is effective enough, and she is alarmed because other residents in the nursing homes are not told that their neighbor down the hall served prison time for theft, murder or sex crimes.

Nursing home operators rarely choose to share that information, Ginther said.

Fairchild notes that Corrections officials inform nursing home administrators about parolees' pasts and that parolees convicted of sex crimes are placed on a public list that anyone can check.

Administrators choose whether to accept a parolee, he said. "It is assumed that administrators will not accept the responsibility of someone they can't handle," Fairchild said.

Ginther said administrators with unoccupied beds may decide that accepting an unsuitable resident is worth the risk, especially if other residents don't know.

AARP officials say they will try to change the state's nursing home-parolee policy during the next legislative session.
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Title Annotation:American Association of Retired Persons; Front Page
Author:Shuxteau, Jan
Publication:Contemporary Long Term Care
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 1, 2003
Words:417
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