Placing elderly sex offenders in Iowa nursing homes - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Placing elderly sex offenders in Iowa nursing homes

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CEDAR FALLS (KWWL) -

Lawmakers are considering a plan to create a state-run nursing home for elderly sex offenders. The issue was brought to light at a meeting in Fort Dodge over the weekend. A sex offender was released to a nursing home in nearby Pomeroy and is now accused of having sexual contact with another resident.

Millisa Tierney, the Executive Director of NewAldaya Lifescapes in Cedar Falls, said this is an issue in which she is personally invested and she's glad to see it making headlines. Tierney said there is an ongoing struggle over how to care for aging sex offenders.

At first glance, NewAldaya Lifescapes doesn't resemble a typical nursing home. But they deal with the same problems as any retirement community, including how to deal with sexual offenders. Some believe, the status quo in the state needs to change.

"Well, the person is over 65, they have medical needs. But they're also a known sexual offender. The only opportunity we have for placement is a long-term facility. And that's not correct. We have to find the right answer to solve the issue," Tierney said.

NewAldaya does not admit known sex offenders. Tierney said they conduct background checks on every potential resident -- including a search of the Iowa Sex Offender Registry.

But that does not solve the issue. As Tierney explained, as people age, their behavior changes. Especially in residents suffering from dementia.

"Throughout the course of the years we've had to learn who to deal effectively with a variety of different behaviors, aggressive behaviors, due to the dementia population," she said. "We're trying to care and treat someone who has dementia, who is now exhibiting those behaviors, in their best interest, as well as keeping the other residents safe and well cared for."

Tierney believes, the best option for sex offenders is a separate home -- similar to what some legislators are proposing.

"We would like to see the attention focused on meeting the needs of those individuals who have those special behaviors and not trying to mix them with a population that could be disastrous," she explained.

Tierney is thankful the issue is on lawmakers' agenda this year, and she's hoping it will create much needed change.

"I don't think there's anyone who would want to see someone that vulnerable taken advantage of. I think it brings about the emotion in all of us that we have a duty and responsibility as a society to care for our elders," Tierney added.

Governor Terry Branstad says there are approximately 55 sex offenders living in Iowa long-term care facilities. Governor Branstad has proposed a law which would require nursing homes to inform residents, and their families, if a sex offender moves into the center.

Some lawmakers believe stronger measures are needed to deal with the problem, including the option of purchasing a nursing home, and employing a staff trained to work with sex offenders.

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