Nursing home workers in Georgia will have to go through tougher background checks under a bill that’s before Gov. Nathan Deal.
The measure, if signed, would require workers who have direct access to seniors in long-term care pass a fingerprint-based national background check.
Under current law, caretakers must go through a background check based only on their names, and the check is limited to crimes committed in Georgia.
“So it is no protection against somebody coming from another state with a history or somebody using a fake name or using somebody else’s name,” said Kathy Floyd, executive director of the Georgia Council on Aging.
The Georgia Council on Criminal Justice Reform recommended in its report this year the tougher background check in order to strengthen protections against elder abuse.
“There are only a few states that are not doing this, so it was time for Georgia to add this step,” Floyd said.
She said reports of elder abuse have been on the rise in recent years due to a growing elderly population, better reporting and the increasing number of incidents.
Investigations into abuse of elders and adults with disabilities have increased 145 percent at the Georgia Bureau of Investigation in five years, according to the agency.
The new fingerprinting requirement would go into effect in January 2021 to allow time for employers to conduct checks on current employees.
Deal has until May 8 to sign or veto bills from this year’s legislative session.