UT Researchers Report on Nursing Home Theft

KNOXVILLE — Two University of Tennessee sociologists who studied crimes against the elderly in nursing homes say that older residents are often victimized by the persons who are supposed to be providing care.

Dr. Michael Benson, a criminologist, and Diana Harris, a research associate in gerontology, discussed “Larceny Where They Live” in a lecture Tuesday night at the University Center.

Benson and Harris surveyed employees of 50 nursing homes, family members and administrators to find out about the occurrence of theft from elderly patients. They found that more than 3 percent of the employees admitted stealing clothing, jewelry or other items from residents.

“The sad part is that the people that nursing home residents depend on for care are the very people that steal from them,” Harris said.

Their findings, funded by the Retirement Research Foundation, have been published in a brochure, “Strategies for Preventing and Reducing Nursing Home Theft.” More than 10,000 copies of the brochure have been distributed by Senior Crime Stoppers, the American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging, the American Health Care Association and other groups.

Benson and Harris suggest leaving jewelry and other valuables at home, identifying or securing items that are at the nursing home and documenting the items with inventories or photos.

“One of the biggest problems that people moving into a nursing home face is the loss of their possessions,” Harris said. “Often these people are losing their physical and mental abilities and their health; and then they have to lose their property, too.”

The talk was sponsored by UT’s Office of Academic Outreach in the College of Arts and Sciences.