Employee background checks may help to prevent incidents of elder abuse in institutional care facilities. Federal and state laws require nursing homes, adult day cares, home health care providers, and personal care homes to conduct employee background checks prior to hiring employees or administrators. Unfortunately, many institutions only do the minimum about of checking required.

Employee Background Checks Requirements

The Federal government prohibits elder care facilities from hiring direct patient access employees that have been found guilty of violence against or neglect of a patient. While criminal background checks are not required on a federal level, states may choose to require elder care facilities to complete a criminal background check on employees prior to hiring. Facilities may also choose to implement more stringent hiring policies than what is mandated by law.

Employee Background Checks Benefits

Employee background checks can be very beneficial to nursing home or other care facilities’ hiring procedures. Employee background checks can help a care facility to screen out employees that may participate in all types of abuse, including emotional, financial, and physical abuse. Any history of theft or violence may indicate a potential for abuse, and should be reviewed carefully by hiring mangers.

Employee Background Checks Shortcomings

In many cases of abuse and neglect against elders, the abuser is found to have had a history of abuse or neglect. There is often a flaw found in the background check procedure used by the care facility that allowed the individual accused of the abuse to be hired. In some cases, a criminal background check that would have exposed abuse convictions was not done. Both the cost of background checks and the amount of time required to review information may deter care facilities from conducting thorough background checks.

Potential for Abuse

Elder care facilities often only look for incidents involving elderly patients when conducting employee background checks. This can be a shortcoming when doing a background check, as any history of abuse, violence, or theft can be a potential warning sign of an employee that may be prone to elder abuse. Facilities should also pay close attention to indications of the character of potential employees when conducting reference checks and interviews.

Criminal Employee Background Checks

In recent years, there has been much controversy over the use of criminal employee background checks in hiring procedures. Several lawsuits have been filed against different companies for screening out employees using criminal background checks. Due to this controversy, some elder care facilities may be hesitant to investigate criminal history when conducting employee background checks unless required by law.

Misuse of Employee Background Checks

Laws surrounding employee background checks in hiring procedures for elder care facilities are meant to protect patients from employees that are likely to be abusive or neglectful. However, some facilities may misuse the results of background checks, screening out employees that have had prior Worker’s Compensation claims. While this is not necessarily illegal, companies that focus mostly on protecting profits may be more likely to miss vital clues that an employee may be abusive to patients.

Background Checks and Financial Abuse

While elder abuse is most often thought of as physical or emotional abuse, the incidence of financial abuse of elder in care facilities is growing rapidly. These crimes are often committed by managers and administrators, so the same standards in employee background checks should apply to those handling patients’ financial affairs. However, direct patient access employees are often screened more thoroughly, with less focus on potential theft than potential violence.

Elder Abuse Investigations

If it has been discovered that a nursing home or other care facility employee is guilty of elder abuse of any kind, an investigation must be done to expose the details of the incident. If it is discovered that flaws in the facility’s employee background checks or hiring procedures allowed an employee with a history of abuse to be hired, the facility may be held liable. An attorney may be able to provide assistance with beginning an investigation into the facility’s hiring policies.




“CMS National Background Check Program .” CMS.gov. Department of Health and Human Services, n.d. Web. 28 Feb 2014. <http://www.cms.gov/Medicare/Provider-Enrollment-and-Certification/SurveyCertificationGenInfo/BackgroundCheck.html>.

Levinson, Daniel. “Federal Requirement.” Nursing Facility’s Employment of Individuals with Criminal Convictions. Department of Health and Human Services, n.d. Web. 28 Feb 2014. <http://oig.hhs.gov/oei/reports/oei-07-09-00110.pdf>.