Convicted felons could be working in your mother or father's nursing home
Florida seniors and disabled adults too frail to live on their own have been beaten, neglected and robbed by caregivers with criminal records.
A cancer patient at a Pompano Beach assisted living facility watched helplessly from bed as a nurse's aide with a record for theft rifled through her handbag and stole $165.
"What are you doing with my bag?" a police report quoted her as saying. "You have no right. Put it down."
A video camera caught an aide at a North Miami Beach group home for the disabled shoving a cerebral palsy patient face-first to the floor, busting her lip. The aide had previously pleaded guilty to aggravated assault and never should have been working there.
More than 3,500 people with criminal records — including rape, robbery and murder — have been allowed to work with the elderly, disabled and infirm through exemptions granted by the state the past two decades, a Sun Sentinel investigation found. Hundreds more slipped through because employers failed to check their backgrounds or kept them on the job despite their criminal past.
In Palm Beach County, a woman with pending forgery charges got a job at a nursing home, where she assaulted a patient.
Glades Health Care Center in Pahokee did a background check on Phillina Anderson in 2004, but it did not turn up the charges, said Francine Hennessy, chief operating officer of the Council on Aging of Florida, Inc., which owns the facility. If it had, the nursing home would not have hired her, Hennessy said.
Anderson was still on probation in that case when she was arrested for abusing patient Cora Edwards.
Near the end of her shift on July 13, 2007, Anderson became upset with Edwards, a stroke victim with Alzheimer's disease, according to an arrest report.
Anderson told Edwards to "shut up" and slapped her "extremely hard" across the face.
"Why did you hit me?" the elderly victim cried out, according to the report. "I never did anything to you."
Anderson was convicted of abuse on an elderly person and served three months in jail. Hennessy said the nursing home learned after her arrest that she had been accused of abusing a resident at another facility that did not report it.