Since 2000, more than 16,000 complaints of sexual abuse in long-term care facilities have been reported. As horrifying as this number is, a recent in-depth investigation by CNN opines it significantly underestimates the total number of abuse victims. There are no national databases tracking reports of sexual abuse among the elderly in nursing home environments. Further, many elderly nursing home residents are not able to report sexual abuse so their stories are never told. Their investigation was designed to bring attention to a problem they describe as "more widespread than anyone would imagine."
Sexual Abuse in Nursing Homes is Rampant
Many of the nursing home sexual abuse stories CNN reported were appalling examples of how staff members in care facilities abused their power over vulnerable residents who were not able to defend themselves against unwanted sexual contact.
One 83-year-old Alzheimer's patient featured in the story was raped by a nursing assistant. The case resulted in criminal charges only because another caregiver witnessed the nursing assistant raping the elderly woman in her room. The nursing assistant had been investigated in the past over sexual assault allegations. He had previously been suspended because he was a suspect in two other instances where nursing home residents were abused. This man kept his job until he was finally caught in the act and forced to face criminal charges. He was ultimately sentenced to eight years of imprisonment.
Nursing homes and government officials share the responsibility for these heinous crimes along with the perpetrators, because the facilities and regulators are doing little to protect vulnerable seniors. Nursing homes are often negligent in who they hire and are often slow to either investigate or report allegations of sexual abuse.
Care facilities say that they have a difficult time conducting investigations into potential abuse because residents who are victims may not be able to remember what occurred or identify the perpetrator. There is also the very real possibility that these facilities may not be digging enough in these investigations because they want to protect their reputations.
Families of abuse victims may have to go to great lengths to get justice when sexual abuse occurs. Reporting abuse to regulatory authorities is a good first step, but families of patients who suffer abuse should consult with experienced nursing home abuse lawyers so they can take legal action against facilities who fail to protect patients. Nursing homes may be more willing to step up to the plate and take responsibility if they fear the threat of a lawsuit.
Sexual abuse victims' families can also consider bringing a civil lawsuit against a long-term care facility that was complacent and allowed abuse to occur. Compensation for abuse victims and their families should be available to those who have suffered at the hands of a caregiver. An attorney can help victims and their families pursue a case to get the money they deserve.