Thefts Highlight Need for Background Checks at Elder Care Facilities

By Michael Klazema on 6/17/2013

Kids aren’t the only people who need to be protected through the use of background checks. Other vulnerable groups, such as the elderly, may also be mistreated by those very individuals entrusted with their care. The risk only increases if background checks are not used to screen out untrustworthy individuals from consideration for positions in which it would be easy for them to take advantage of the seniors under their care.

One recent news story from Olympia, Wash. underscores the need to protect seniors from unscrupulous individuals. Nurse’s aide Kerrina Koch was charged with one count of first-degree theft and four counts of trafficking in stolen property based on criminal activities allegedly carried out at the senior care facility where she works.

According to police, Koch may have stolen rings from as many as six patients. The investigation into Koch’s activities began after the wife of an Alzheimer’s patient at Garden Courte Memory Care Community, the facility where Koch works, called the police. The woman told police that two of her husband’s rings were missing, one of which was valued at $1,800 and the other at $600.

Court documents indicate that Koch’s MO may have been to claim she was taking patients’ rings for cleaning, relying on their faulty memories to cover her tracks when the rings were never returned.

According to police, Koch pawned at least two of the rings she allegedly stole at Cash America. Unfortunately the rings have already been melted down and could not be returned to their rightful owners.

Koch’s story underscores the vulnerability of Alzheimer’s patients and other residents of elder care facilities. While background checks can’t stop crimes like this from happening, they can help reduce the risk of such crimes by preventing elder care facilities from hiring individuals with past convictions in areas like theft, fraud, and abuse.

A national criminal background check tool like US OneSEARCH from could prove quite useful in the effort to protect seniors from being victimized by their own caretakers. US OneSEARCH compares a name and a date of birth against over 450 million records taken from state and local databases across the country to reveal any past criminal convictions associated with the individual in question.

Many states already have rules about background checks for elder care facilities, though these rules are not always as comprehensive or as effective as they could be. For example, Michigan requires a fingerprint-based background check, but only for owners, operators, and certain other individuals. This may leave residents vulnerable to abuse from individuals in positions not subject to the background check.

Kentucky’s proposed elder care background check law would make a better model. If passed, the law would require national rather than state-based background checks and ongoing criminal monitoring of all employees of long term elder care facilities. This approach would definitely help prevent unsuitable individuals from being employed at nursing homes where they may have the opportunity to commit crimes. The ongoing criminal monitoring aspect of the bill is especially noteworthy, because it will enable employers to receive an immediate notification whenever an employee is involved in a criminal case.

The investigation into Koch’s crimes is ongoing. At this time, she has been released without bail, and it is unclear whether or not she has been terminated from employment at Garden Courte Memory Care Community.


Founded during the Internet boom in 1999 by an executive in both the staffing and information industry, – a founding member of the National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS®) – has been able to create a service that provides a blend of flexible screening programs that included instant, cost effective and comprehensive solutions. Our experience in database modeling of public records information has led to become the leader in the acquisition and delivery of public records information by harnessing the power and technology of the Internet. To learn more visit



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