Twice convicted of molesting children, Thomas Kolze did his time in prison before being paroled to a nursing home in June 2003 because of heart and kidney problems. A caseworker assumed he wouldn’t be a threat to elderly residents because his past sex crimes involved children, not adults, the Chicago Sun-Times reports. Less than six months later, a nurse aide spotted Kolze in the TV room rubbing an Alzheimer’s patient’s thighs and arms as she sat in a wheelchairt. Not long after, another employee saw Kolze cheek-to-cheek in the TV room touching the chest of another woman with dementia.
Kolze, now 61, was sent back to prison, but he’s out again. He’s one of 100 registered sex offenders living in 54 nursing homes, other long-term care facilities and supportive living centers in Illinois, a Sun-Times investigation found. Half of the sex offenders in these homes are age 50 or younger — something that’s sounding alarm bells with advocates concerned about patient safety. The youngest is 23. “There are more young ones in Illinois than in any other state I’ve seen,” said Wes Bledsoe of A Perfect Cause, a nursing home watchdog group that has studied the sex-offender issue across the country. The elderly, disabled or mentally ill residents in these homes, and the family members who visit them, typically have no idea they’re sharing a roof with convicted sex criminals.