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Nursing Homes House Criminals alongside Vulnerable Elders

After seventy-seven year-old Virginia Thurston was diagnosed with dementia, her daughter, Sandra, had her placed in a nursing home. Making the decision was difficult enough, but what happened to her mother in the home was a heart-breaking tragedy.

Virginia Thurston was raped and assaulted by an eighty-three year old resident who wedged her door closed with his wheelchair to prevent rescue. Shockingly, the man who raped Virginia Thurston had been arrested on fifty-nine prior occasions for crimes which included sexual assault. He was placed into the nursing home by the State of Florida, who declared him a “vulnerable adult” after he was found on the streets.

Even more shocking is the fact that this is not an isolated incident, but something that happens all-too-often at nursing home around the U.S. Many public nursing homes house not only the elderly, but also criminals who are unfit for prison. Many of these criminals are sexual offenders—some registered and some unregistered due to their old age, which exempts them from registration. CBS News conducted an investigation of nursing homes in thirty-seven states and found 380 sexual offenders who were being housed in nursing homes. We can only guess at the situation in the remaining thirteen states.

How can this be allowed? It turns out that it’s all about money. Nursing homes receive federal money through Medicare or Medicaid for each occupied bed.  So when they have vacancies, many public nursing facilities offer beds to convicted criminals who have been sentenced to facility stay. In doing so, they place some of the most vulnerable members of society—elderly people who are ill and weak—side-by-side with mentally unstable criminals. As nursing home Watchdog Wes Bledsoe stated, “It’s a mix for disaster.”

Virginia Thurston recently passed away and her estate is handling the lawsuit associated with her sexual assault. Virginia’s daughter says she is determined to protect others and will not stop until there is a change.

Nursing home abuse is not always as evident as criminal assault and harassment. More often, abuse is seen in the form of neglect or substandard care. Signs of nursing home neglect or abuse include poor hygiene of residents, residents wearing unclean clothing, inappropriate dress for conditions, hazards not made safe for the elderly, bed sores, wounds, and sudden weight loss or dehydration. The appearance of depression and complaints of being restrained for extended periods of time also may indicate nursing home malpractice. Nursing home patients cannot often communicate abuse to their loved ones or authorities, so it is extremely important to pay close attention for warning signs.

The decision to place a loved one in a nursing facility is difficult enough without having to worry about the quality of care received. Our attorneys have successfully defended the rights of thousands of elder care abuse victims and their families. If you, or someone you know, have been a victim of elder care abuse, please contact us at for a free consultation. Our attorneys are available to assist in all aspects of your litigation.

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Gavin P. Lentz, Esq.
Bochetto & Lentz

Gavin Lentz (right) was selected as a "Super Lawyer" for 2006-2009 in New Jersey by Philadelphia Magazine. He has also been selected as a "Super Lawyer" by Philadelphia Magazine and the Legal Intelligencer in 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007.

On September 16, 2002 Mr. Lentz was selected as one of the top 50 lawyers in Pennsylvania by the Legal Intelligencer.

He has made many television appearances, including on Fox News, The Today Show, Inside Edition, and The Phil Donahue Show.

Mr. Lentz is a member of the American Trial Lawyers Association and the Million Dollar Advocates Forum.

As a former prosecutor, he knows how to aggressively go after a nursing home to prove the facts necessary to protect your loved one's rights.

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