Sexual Abuse In Nursing Homes Is A Real Concern
There are few things worse, both for the victim and for the family, than nursing home neglect. When we think of loved ones in a nursing home, unable to care for themselves, and being unattended to, it seems like that is the worst thing that can happen to an elderly person, unable to care for him or herself.
Abuse of Residents
But there is, arguably, something worse: Being actively abused in a nursing home. That means not just being unattended to or ignored or uncared for, but someone taking affirmative actions to harm a nursing home resident. And as sad and cruel as it sounds, it does happen.
Residents can be abused in many ways, by many different people. The active abuse can come from fellow members, or even from nursing home staff.
Hard to Stop- and Identify
Abuse from fellow members can be hard for nursing home staff to identify, and stop. Often, abuse may come from personal relationships between residents. Staff, unwilling to step into a resident’s personal affairs, or wanting to give residents personal freedom to engage in personal relationships, may feel like abuse between residents is “none of their business.”
Consent or Not?
Abuse is also a huge risk factor, because it may be unclear the extent to which a nursing home resident is able to consciously and intelligently provide the consent needed for touching or other intimate relations. Of course, sometimes it is obvious—someone who is completely infirm or non communicative can never give consent.
But sometimes it isn’t so obvious. Many residents may have bouts of dementia, but other moments of clarity. Nursing home staff, handling multiple residents, often don’t give attention to whether someone can knowingly consent to physical touching by another resident.
Making matters worse, residents who are the most vulnerable—those with cognitive or mental impairments—may be the residents who staff least likely believes, when unwanted touching is reported. Nursing home staff often don’t want to devote the time or energy to figuring out who did what to who, and whether there was valid consent.
When Staff Are the ABusers
There is almost no instance where physical sexual touching between staff and a resident is ever consensual, permissible, or allowable. However, it does happen, and the same problem arises—with the most vulnerable of residents, their story may not be believed by outsiders.
When seeking out a nursing home, families are encouraged to ask about background checks done not just on the nursing staff, but with any employees who will or who could come into contact with residents.
Family members should look for changes in the mood, affect, or behavior of their loved ones, as well as looking for physical changes, like bruising or bleeding. That includes looking in and on areas that are normally clothed, to see if private areas have been injured.
Call the West Palm Beach personal injury attorneys at Pike & Lustig today if you have questions about abuse or neglect in a nursing home.