Sexual Abuse in Pennsylvania Nursing Homes
Sexual abuse in nursing homes is a particularly repulsive topic to consider. It is unimaginable to most people.
Yet, unfortunately, it is a reality that is becoming increasingly evident as hundreds of cases come to light from long-term care facilities around the U.S. It is estimated that over 70 percent of all reported elder sexual abuse cases occur in nursing homes.
Sexual predators exist who seek gratification even at the hands of the most vulnerable amongst us – and that includes the elderly.
Elderly victims are often isolated from their families, physically weak, and unable to speak up for themselves against the abuse they suffer.
The lawyers at Andreozzi + Foote can help you find justice for a loved one who has been a victim of sexual abuse in a nursing home or other long-term care facility.
UPDATE: HB 963 to extend the statute of limitations on sexual abuse
What are the signs of sexual assault in a nursing home?
Sexual abuse does not need to be as serious as rape – though that does occur in nursing homes, hard as it is to believe.
Sexual abuse is any sexual contact that is unwanted or nonconsensual. So, sexual contact without permission is illegal, including touching, groping, fondling, kissing, unnecessary coerced nudity, and photography.
Often, because it is so unexpected, the symptoms of nursing home sexual abuse go unnoticed by those who are entrusted to care for the individual.
Sometimes, there are behavioral signs that are attributed to other common problems that the elderly experience, such as Alzheimer’s, dementia, and so on. Typical behavioral signs include:
- Anxiety around a specific caregiver
- Fear of contact in a particular part of the body
- Withdrawal from others
In addition to these behavioral symptoms, you should also be aware of the physical signs of sexual abuse in the elderly:
- Discomfort or difficulty when sitting or walking
- Signs of injury in the genital, anal, thigh, or breast areas
- STDs or infections
- Bloodied underwear
- Unexplained torn clothing
Who are typically victims of sexual abuse in nursing homes?
Victims of sexual abuse are often the most vulnerable individuals in society. In the context of a long-term care facility for the elderly, that often means the weakest, most immobile, and most confused individuals.
Such individuals are unable to defend themselves and are often unable to report the abuse or substantiate claims due to inadequate communication skills. They may also fear reprisals or retaliation for reporting abuse.
All too often, the victim is an older woman with dementia, Alzheimer’s or another type of cognitive impairment. If they do attempt to speak up, their story is unfortunately often not taken seriously.
What type of people commit sexual abuse in nursing homes?
You may be wondering what sort of person could commit sexual abuse with an elderly and frail individual in a nursing home?
Virtually all cases involve male perpetrators and most are fellow residents within the facility.
However, this is not always so and there have been cases against residents of nursing homes perpetrated by guests, staff members, and caretakers.
What are the nursing home’s obligations towards patients?
Regardless of who is the perpetrator of nursing home sexual abuse, long-term care facilities in the U.S. have legal obligations and duties of care towards their patients and residents.
A nursing home must screen all residents and should be aware of those who are most prone to abuse.
At the same time, thorough background checks must be performed on all prospective employees to make sure they pose no danger to residents. This should include checking registries to see if they are disqualified from particular types of employment because of a past criminal charge or conviction.
The duty of care in nursing homes includes protecting all residents from abuse and neglect. Staff and the management need to remain vigilant for any potential dangers for residents and be aware of the signs and symptoms of abuse or neglect.
If there is a claim of sexual abuse, the nursing home should commit to investigating it promptly and thoroughly, with protocols in place for reporting it to the relevant authorities.
Many claims cannot be proven but the responsibility of the facility to investigate still exists. Failure to do so can bring state or federal action, including fines and suspensions from Medicare and Medicaid programs.
Civil action from families is also likely.
What are the effects of sexual abuse claims?
The implications of sexual abuse on an elderly individual can be devastating. Many victims are already fragile physically and mentally and their suffering from the abuse is compounded.
For the nursing home, one of the most serious outcomes of a sexual abuse claim is if they lose the reimbursements from Medicare and Medicaid. These are substantial and are often considered the lifeblood of these organizations.
Without this deterrent, even if the facility is fined for failure to protect its resident, it does little to prevent nursing home sexual abuse from happening again.
That’s why civil lawsuits are so important for families wishing to get justice for their loved one, as well as to hold the nursing home to account for failure to protect their elderly relative.
The negative publicity involved with cases brought against such facilities is often a costly outcome in terms of their reputation within the local community.
Many cases of nursing home sexual abuse go unreported and the more that these cases are brought to light, the better it will be for residents and their families.
What can you do about nursing home sexual abuse?
If you or an elderly loved one has been the victim of nursing home sexual abuse, it is important to get legal advice from the professionals at Andreozzi + Foote as soon as possible.
Start with a free & confidential case evaluation so that we can assess the facts of your case and advise you on the suggested next steps.
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