Sexual assaults in nursing homes: A widespread and disturbing phenomenon

Nursing homes: A dangerous place to be

The decision to place an elderly loved one in a nursing home is never an easy one. When this happens, however, the person who makes this decision wants to at least rest comfortably knowing that the nursing home patient is in a safe and healthy environment. More and more, though, the exact opposite happens. The patient is subjected to physical, psychological, and verbal abuse by both residents and caretakers.

Sexual abuse in the form of assault is perhaps the most serious type of abuse to which the nursing home patient is exposed to. These assaults are not isolated incidents, but are more frequently happening across the country by nursing homes taking in violent criminals and convicted sex offenders, with disastrous results. The question is, why?

Sexual assaults: Causes and symptoms

Sexual criminals and predators gain accessibility to vulnerable patients in a number of ways: By being a visitor, employee, or even a fellow patient. This happens even though healthcare facilities are obligated to know the criminal backgrounds of who they hire.

While some victims report the incidents, elderly and confused residents may not have the ability to articulate the facts. Because some cases go unreported, the extent of the problem remains unknown. Physical signs of sexual assault include:

  • Semen in urine specimens.
  • Vaginal and rectal bleeding and tears.
  • Bloody, stained, or torn underwear.
  • Anxiety, depression withdrawal.

Case studies

The following are just a few examples of court cases over the past decade of sexual assaults in nursing homes. In 2004, in Florida, as reported by cbsnews.com, a woman put her 77-year-old mother in a nursing home when she developed severe dementia. She thought that her mother would be safe, but she was assaulted by a fellow 83-year-old resident.

The daughter had her mother tested for sexual assault. As the daughter said, "Tears were rolling out of the corners of her eyes."

The assailant had been sent to the facility after being found wandering through the streets and declared a "vulnerable adult ... in need of protective services" by a court. His criminal file was 13 pages long, filled with 59 arrests for a number of incidents, including sexual assault and child molestation. "This is a biography of a monster, and he made my mother one of his victims," said the daughter, who sued the facility.

More close to home, medleague.com reports that, in 2010, it was alleged that a Maryland woman, suffering from Alzheimer's, was raped by a fellow nursing home resident. After her assault, she was transported to a nearby hospital for post-rape medical workup. She was also reported as having suffered psychological injuries as the result of her mental deficits. She sued, claiming that the nursing home, by not providing adequate security, had engaged in a violation of its appropriate standard of care. The defendant nursing home denied liability, but then agreed to settle for $800,000.

Conclusion

If you find yourself considering placing a loved one in a nursing home, you would do well to thoroughly investigate the medical and criminal background of the facilities you are considering. If you have a loved one in a nursing home and you suspect, for any of the reasons listed above, or for any other reason, that he or she has been subject to sexual assault, you should immediately contact an experienced personal injury attorney, who can investigate the facts and determine whether a lawsuit against the responsible party is in order.