Moving into a nursing home after years of independent living can be a difficult transition. You would hope that you wouldn’t also have to deal with potentially dangerous neighbors. But in many states, including New York, nursing homes don’t have to notify residents if a registered sex offender moves in. According to the New York Post, registered sex offender Charles Mitchell—convicted of raping someone at knifepoint three decades ago—was able to move into the Newfane Rehabilitation and Health Care Center (also known as the Newfane Nursing Home) in Niagara County. Newfane Nursing Home waited five months to inform residents and their families that a Level 3 sex offender was living in their midst. This comes two years after a similar issue occurred in downtown Buffalo. Thomas Moore—a man who had been incarcerated for abusing elderly women—was allowed to move into Waterfront Health Care Facility, a Buffalo nursing home filled with elderly women. He only lasted a month before he was arrested for abusing one of the women. A University of Buffalo professor and psychologist stated that this was tantamount to letting the fox into the hen house.
This is not just a New York issue. An article in The Atlantic reported disturbing cases of sex offenders reoffending in nursing homes in Iowa, Ohio, Illinois, and California.
How can this be happening? While no nursing home is required to accept sex offenders, nursing homes—after purportedly doing risk assessments on each offender—do sometimes accept them. And when they do, they often don’t have to inform residents and their families. While some states, like Massachusetts, bar Level 3 sex offenders from nursing homes, that is not the case in all states. New York state law does not require nursing homes to inform residents or their families if a sex offender moves onto the premises. As we’ve seen at homes like Waterfront Health Care Facility, that legal loophole has led to some horrific consequences for vulnerable adults who should have been safe in nursing homes, and instead found themselves victimized at the hands of dangerous predators who were also their neighbors.
How can you protect yourself and your loved ones? In New York, you and your family members can go to nyalert.gov to be alerted if a Level 2 or Level 3 sex offender moves to a specific address, even if it’s a nursing home. If you’ve suffered abuse at a nursing home, you don’t have to suffer in silence. Don’t hesitate to come forward. Contact an attorney at (877) 238-4175.