When your elderly or infirm loved ones go to a nursing home, they deserve to have a safe environment and quality care. Unfortunately, that scenario is rarely the case. Incidents of sexual abuse occur with astonishing and disturbing frequency in nursing homes. Earlier this year, CNN published an investigative report on sexual abuse in nursing homes. They “found that more than 1,000 nursing homes have been cited for mishandling suspected cases of sex abuse.” Tragically, we can often trace these abhorrent acts to egregious negligence in hiring or supervision by the nursing home. The attorneys at Tittle & Perlmuter are here to assist you with nursing home sexual assault cases and other types of nursing home abuse and neglect. We hold facilities accountable for any abuse a loved one endured.
What is Sexual Abuse?
The Ohio nursing home residents’ rights include:
“the right to be free from physical, verbal, mental, and emotional abuse and to be treated at all times with courtesy, respect, and full recognition of dignity and individuality.”
A nursing home infringes upon this right when any type of abuse occurs. This includes sexual assault.
The National Council of Aging defines sexual abuse as, “touching, fondling, intercourse or any other sexual activity with an older adult when the older adult is unable to understand, is unwilling to consent or when the aggressor threatens the victim or forces contact.” Other types of elderly sexual abuse include:
- Sexual photography
- Spying on an individual in the bathroom
- Telling a sexual joke or story
Many nursing home residents are vulnerable to abuse due to a variety of reasons. Some individuals have trouble communicating, others don’t have full mobility to get around. Those who have dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, a physical disability or experience social isolation or neglect are at an increased risk for abuse. Residents are even more vulnerable during night shifts when they are sleeping and there is less supervision and staff on duty.
In the majority of elder sexual abuse cases, the perpetrator was the caregiver. Sexual abuse incidents are also occasionally caused by other residents, facility visitors, family members or strangers.
Signs of Sexual Abuse
Nursing home residents may suffer from memory loss, confusion, or issues with communication that can make identifying sexual abuse incidents more difficult. To help identify possible sexual abuse, friends and family members should look out for these following signs:
- New emergence of sexually transmitted diseases
- Recently developed issues with walking or sitting
- Pelvic injuries
- Bruises on and around the genital area
- Anal or genital pain, bleeding, or irritation
- Bloody, torn, or stained undergarments
- Social withdrawal
- Panic attacks or symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder
- Inappropriate, aggressive, or unusual sexual behavior
Report any incident of suspected sexual assault to law enforcement.
How to Help Prevent Sexual Abuse
Oftentimes, facilities don’t properly train nursing home staff and administrators to identify sexual abuse. They do not know how to handle suspected or reported incidents as a result. Facilities should take the following steps to ensure safety for nursing home residents:
- Train staff to identify abuse and protect victims
- Run thorough background checks on staff
- Implement more supervision for residents
- Educate residents and families about prevention and detection
- Put a successful abuse reporting system in place
- Preserve evidence (don’t change clothes, sheets, etc.)
Ensuring Residents are Safe from Staff
Nursing home employees have a lot of one-on-one time with residents and certain daily routines require intimate contact for activities such as bathing, dressing, going to the bathroom, and additional hygiene regimens. Families and their loved ones in the facility trust the staff that they will help and not abuse the elderly individuals in their care. Before hire, nursing home employees must be properly screened and have background checks run to ensure that they don’t have any prior criminal convictions or red flags. Facilities should monitor staff to make sure they are not abusing their power over residents.
Call Tittle & Perlmuter Today for a Free Consultation
Any form of sexual abuse is an extraordinarily serious matter. It is important to notify authorities immediately. Additionally, if your loved one has suffered from abuse, take action right away and contact our experienced nursing home abuse lawyers at Tittle & Perlmuter. We are ready to listen to advise you on the best course of action. Call (216) 308-1522 for a free consultation. You can also reach out online. We will promptly respond back to you. We can come to you and we can meet you whenever is convenient, including weekends and evenings.