|February 27, 2012|
I listened with interest to the radio report of a Chicopee elder who was bilked out of her life savings by her health care worker. This is just the tip of the iceberg. I worked in human service agencies my entire career, and came upon heinous crimes perpetrated upon the most vulnerable of our citizens. This ranged from elders, the disabled, people who have mental retardation, cognitive problems and every area of society.
The perpetrators are very clever. They gain total trust of their victims before abusing them physically, emotionally or financially. Criminal record checks (CORI's) and reference checks are not full-proof. When I worked for an agency serving severely disabled people, we had a volunteer who had impeccable references. She had no criminal record. In fact, she worked for a government office. She claimed to be church-going and talked about God all the time. She dressed in a professional manner and presented herself very well. When we learned of the fraud and financial exploitation she committed upon her clients, she was fired and immediately reported to local and state protective agencies.
I saw these crimes committed by health care workers, who were hired directly by the clients. They got into checking/bank accounts, stole from their homes, and committed crimes of neglect and abuse. They threatened people by telling them if they told anyone, they would be put into a nursing home. These people are the lowest denomination of supposedly human beings, in my opinion. Somehow they would be stopped at one home and turn up at another.
We can't be too careful. A system must be created to check out these perpetrators before they go to work for a disabled or elderly person. CORI's and reference checks aren't enough. They need to be monitored more closely, once they are in homes. Agencies need to create a hot-line listing names of perpetrators, whose crimes have been investigated and proven. With a hot-line, people can call and check out who they are planning to hire. A system such as this throughout the human service network might cut down the number of perpetrators who cunningly get into homes to purposely take advantage of their vulnerable clients.
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