However, many nursing homes pretty much have an ‘open door’ policy when it comes to granting visitors access to their facility. Sure some facilities have a check-in desk where visitors can sign in and get an official looking sticker to put on their lapel, but rarely is there much more of a screening system in place to restrict access to these facilities.
While the overwhelming majority of visitors indeed have very sincere intentions for their visit, a small, but dangerous minority of nursing home visitors needs to be acknowledged for the threat they pose to vulnerable patients.
While not the first time an incident such as this has taken place, I was repulsed to read about an incident in a Michigan nursing home where a visitor allegedly sexually assaulted a comatose patient.
Prosecutors have now charged Cornell Lowman with fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct after he allegedly sexually assaulted a comatose patient at nursing home where he was apparently visiting another patient.
Mr. Lowman has an extensive criminal record for similar sexual crimes. He served eight years in prison following a 1985 sex crime and 1984 larceny. Mr. Lowman was released just last year after serving time for another 2007 larceny conviction.
Incidents such as this, should give nursing homes, time to pause and re-evaluate how they handle visitors to their facilities. Too often, facilities have no real visitor policy in effect which can pose a real threat to both patients and staff alike. However, given the real opportunity there is for despicable acts to occur, facilities should have a visiting system that implements the following safeguards:
- Keep lists of ‘approved’ visitors for each patient
- Notify patients of visitors before allowing the visitor access
- Requiring photo identification from all visitors
- Keep access to particularly vulnerable patients restricted
- Only allow visitors access to the area where the patient they are visiting lives
If Mr. Lowman is convicted of his current charge, he stands to spend the rest of his life in jail under Michigan law.
Detroit man, 49 accused of sexually assaulting coma patient, by Doug Guthrie, The Detroit News, April 19, 2011