UT Studies Nursing Home Theft (340)

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — One of 25 caregivers in Tennessee nursing homes may be stealing from residents, a University of Tennessee study has found.

 Dr. Michael Benson and Diana Harris of UT-Knoxville’s sociology department found that 4 percent of staff in six Tennessee nursing homes admitted stealing from residents.

 Their findings resulted in a $127,300 grant from the Retirement Research Foundation for a national survey of about 2,000 nursing home employees, administrators, residents and their families at about 50 facilities, mostly in large U.S. cities.

In-depth interviews with about 40 staff, residents, administrators and family members are planned.

“The ultimate goal of this study is to develop better theft prevention techniques for an industry which is expected to house some 2.1 million elderly people by the year 2005,” Harris said.

Little is known about nursing home theft because no large studies have been conducted, Harris said. It may be worsening as the elderly portion of the nation’s population grows and more people go into nursing homes, she said.

 The UT study will explore employee attitudes about working in nursing homes, stealing, observing theft and confronting problems. Families will be asked about awareness and frequency of theft and administrators about personnel, security and policies, Benson said.

 “We will gather a great deal of information about people who work in nursing homes, including their educational background, marital status, race, sex, age and attitudes,” Benson said. “We may be able to help nursing homes identify profiles of employees who are likely to have problems with patients.”

 The UT researchers say they hope to complete the study in about two years.

 The study also will compare theft rates at nursing homes and see which techniques now in use are most effective at preventing theft. Harris said prevention measures to be investigated include:

 — Locking closet doors.

 — Fastening down TV’s, VCR’s and other items.

 — Controlling access, signing visitors in and out.

 — Having employees work in pairs, report suspicious activity, and use clear trash bags to carry goods in and out of the facility.

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 Contact: Dr. Michael Benson, Diana Harris (423-974-6021)