Felons Employed to Care for Elderly in California, Report Finds

A case of <"http://www.yourlawyer.com/practice_areas/nursing_home_negligence">elder care abuse involving a 92-year-old woman was recently settled, driving attention to the issue in California, a state in which home care provider activities are not fully regulated, said ABC Local.

According to ABC7’s 7 On Your Side, felons are being hired to care for the elderly in their homes. Sadly, a relatively easy fix, approved by the state legislature, is largely ignored in California, noted ABC.

In the case of 92-year-old Rose Michael, a caretaker hired by a home care agency stole some $30,000, wrote ABC, quoting Rose as saying, “I guess I didn’t realize it until it was too late.” The caretaker, Wessa Tanubo, pled guilty last year to felony financial abuse after she was accused of signing checks to herself and using Rose’s credit cards for purchases for herself. “It was a better part of the year when we started realizing some things were not right,” said Rose’s son, Patrick.

The Roses learned that Tanubo was convicted on drug charges in 1994, was paroled in 1995, and was in and out of prison from 2000 to 2004 on an array of parole violations, said ABC Local. In 2008 a restraining order was issued against Tanubo to keep her away from her child. It was after this, said ABC Local, that Home Care Assistance (HCA) placed Tanubo into the Rose home. “We trusted the agency that they had said they did national and criminal background checks and local criminal background checks and they were placing the best people in my mother’s home,” said Rosalie Gonsolin, Rose’s daughter, quoted ABC Local.

HCA’s background check did not spot Tanubo’s criminal history; the Roses sued the firm for “elder abuse and for falsely advertising it conducted thorough background checks,” said ABC Local, adding that a confidential agreement has been reached.

HCA announced it is conducting criminal background checks via the Department of Justice (DOJ) on all caretakers, wrote ABC Local. “The industry and the state of California neither of them have regulated this at all. We really decided on our own accord that we continued to grow and open up additional locations, that we wanted to put more of these checks in place,” said Lily Sarafan, chief operating officer of HCA, quoted ABC Local.

Background checks conducted in California in the past year revealed that about 1,000 convicted felons are working or looking for jobs as caretakers to the elderly and disabled in California, according to ABC Local. Sadly, the law, which requires such checks for the poor who qualify for home family assistance or the wealthy who can afford caretakers who can provide medical care, skips the larger middle class who has to pay out-of-pocket, said ABC Local.

“Anybody can go out and call themselves a home worker, put an ad in the paper, and they’re not, they’re not required to have a criminal background check,” said Pat McGinnis, the executive director from California Advocates for Nursing Home Reforms, quoted ABC Local.

Meanwhile, we just wrote that the Elder Justice Act, a provision of the federal health reform law, is partly responsible for a DOJ probe into abuse and neglect in Northern California nursing homes. President Barack Obama signed the law in March; the Act seeks to prevent “elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation” via collaboration with the U.S. attorney general’s office and other government interests, explained California Watch previously. The DOJ is looking into complaints of negligence and is considering civil or criminal charges, noted California Watch.

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