Elder Sexual Abuse in Pennsylvania
Sexual abuse of any kind is intolerable – but when it happens to the most vulnerable in our society, it is even more unpalatable.
Elderly people should be able to live without the fear of abuse – especially when in the company of caregivers, family members and other trusted people within their circle.
Unfortunately, the alarming reality of elder sexual abuse in Pennsylvania means that abuse is more common than most of us can imagine and it is usually perpetrated by a trusted person close to the elder.
There are ways to report elder sexual abuse – indeed, many employees in Pennsylvania have a legal obligation to report any signs of abuse they witness.
It’s only by doing this that we can hope to prevent more innocent and fragile elderly people from suffering the same type of abuse in the future.
UPDATE: HB 963 to extend the statute of limitations on sexual abuse
What are the signs of elder sexual abuse?
Elder sexual abuse leaves both physical and emotional signs of damage on the victims. However, these signs can be challenging to pinpoint because they can be confused with other signs of aging.
It is not unusual for elderly people to become more withdrawn, fearful, confused or agitated so many of the mental and emotional signs of abuse can go undetected.
You should certainly ask questions if you notice any of the following signs of sexual abuse in an elderly individual:
- “Irrational” fear of a particular caregiver
- Unexplained anxiety
- Panic attacks
- Emotional withdrawal
- Talk of suicide or suicide attempts
- Lack of enthusiasm for visits
- Inappropriate sexual behavior
The physical signs should be more obvious and may include:
- Torn or bloodied undergarments
- Bruising around the genitals or breasts
- Unexplained genital bleeding
- Discomfort when sitting or walking
- Signs of a sexually transmitted infection (STI)
How do you report elder abuse in a nursing home in Pennsylvania?
The vast majority of nursing homes in Pennsylvania do a wonderful job of looking after elderly and infirm residents. Unfortunately, this doesn’t apply in every case.
If you notice any of the signs of elder sexual abuse outlined above, the first step may be to address what happened directly with the elderly individual. There may be a reasonable explanation. Be patient and encourage open discussion with the individual.
However, if you notice repeated signs or there is no rational reason for the behavioral or physical signs of abuse, it is time to report it.
Elderly people often fear repercussions if they report an incident. They may not be comfortable talking about it or reporting it. So, it may fall upon you as an employee in the nursing home or other facility to report the signs of abuse.
Raise the issue with the authorities in the nursing home first. If nothing is done, inform the legal authorities of the abuse as a crime may have been committed. An investigation will need to be launched and criminal charges may be laid if there is enough evidence.
Victims and their families may also be able to pursue legal action in the civil courts.
What rights do elders in nursing homes have in Pennsylvania?
If your elderly loved one is in a nursing home in Pennsylvania, certain federal and state rights are afforded them.
These include the right to:
- Voice grievances without the fear of retaliation
- At least 30 days’ notice before being transferred or discharged
- Choose one’s attending physician
- Participate in the development of treatment plans
- Be fully informed about treatment plans
- Be free of chemical and physical restraints that are not medically necessary
- Have a comprehensive medical assessment within two weeks of admission
- Access medical records upon demand
Pennsylvania laws on mandatory abuse reporting
Since 1997, laws in Pennsylvania have made it mandatory to report the abuse of elderly and care-dependent adults. Similar laws also apply to child abuse.
The laws made under the Pennsylvania Older Adults Protective Services Act (OAPSA) mean that if you work in a care facility and witness elder abuse or have knowledge that suggests that abuse has occurred, you must report it to the relevant authorities.
Most long-term care workers in Pennsylvania need to undergo state police background checks before entering employment with a care facility.
The law applies to all administrators and employees of long-term care facilities, older adult daily living centers and personal care homes in Pennsylvania. It includes contract workers.
Even if you work in a personal care or home healthcare environment and provide care in a dependent person’s home, you need to report signs of abuse – for instance, by a family member or other trusted person.
While the law applies to elders, it is not specific to them and applies to all “adults who, due to physical or cognitive disability or impairment, requires assistance to meet needs for food, shelter, clothing, personal care or health care.” There is no minimum age that a person needs to be for protection under the law.
These laws afford a level of protection to victims when someone else is in the facility is aware of the abuse. However, because an employee of the facility is often the individual who commits the abuse, other safeguards need to be in place to help prevent sexual abuse of elders – both by the facility and family members.
Why choose our Pennsylvania elder abuse lawyers?
The prosecution of sexual abusers in Pennsylvania is a strong focus of the lawyers at Andreozzi & Foote and we can help you take the steps towards justice and compensation.
Whether the elder sexual abuse has occurred in a nursing home, long-term care facility or at home, we are committed to bringing perpetrators to justice so they cannot harm anyone else.
Book a free & confidential consultation conducted in the strictest confidence.
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