Sexual abuse of nursing home residents is one of the most insidious forms of abuse that can occur in Birmingham, Homewood, Mountain Brook, Vestavia Hills and surrounding locations. A nursing home abuse attorney knows when staff members engage in sexual abuse of residents, the physically and psychological impact of the abuse can be devastating.
Likewise, when patients with dementia or other severe mental disabilities cannot make informed decisions and residents engage in inappropriate or non-consensual sexual behavior with each other, the consequences can be very severe. Nursing homes have an obligation to try to prevent sexual abuse and can be held legally responsible in cases where such abuse happens.
In some cases, however, the question of consent becomes a more complicated issue. The New York Times reported recently on one such case. The case involved a 78-year-old woman in a nursing home who has Alzheimer's and who is under the nursing home's care because of her severe dementia. The woman does not remember the names of her children, and does not understand how to correctly do simple things like wash her hands or eat a hamburger. Because of her dementia, it is unclear whether she is able to consent to have sex with her husband. This has resulted in her 78-year-old husband being put on trial for having sex with his wife.
When Does Sexual Behavior in a Nursing Home Cross the Line into Sexual Abuse?
The 78-year-old husband of the Alzheimer's patient has been charged with third-degree felony sexual abuse because he had sexual relations in a nursing home with his wife eight days after nursing home staff members told the man that his wife was not mentally stable enough to agree to sex. The husband and wife had been married since 2007, after each had previously been windowed. They met while singing in a church choir.
The circumstances surrounding the criminal case are being described as unprecedented. The care center where the woman lives permits consensual sex among residents, but the woman in question had a care plan that included limiting outings with her husband. The woman's daughter had expressed concern about whether the woman could still consent to sex, which prompted nursing home staff members to make a note on the bottom of the plan about concerns that the Alzheimer's patient could no longer give consent. The doctor replied to the note and said that she could not consent, and the woman's husband was told of the restriction.
Although this case is the first of its kind, whether a resident can consent to sex is likely to become a bigger issue as more and more people begin to suffer from dementia due to the aging of the population. Nursing homes could find themselves facing lawsuits if they are seen as not doing enough to protect their residents, so clear laws and policies need to be established in order to ensure that everyone knows the rules.
Victims of Birmingham, AL nursing home abuse should consult with a personal injury lawyer at Shuttlesworth Law Firm LLC. Call 866-583-1885 today. Serving Birmingham, suburbs of Homewood, Mountain Brook and Vestavia Hills and surrounding locations.