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Identifying Sexual Abuse in Nursing Homes

When you realize that your parent, grandparent or loved one requires the full-time care that only a nursing home can provide, you naturally expect that the facility you’ve selected will take all measures necessary to ensure the comfort and safety of your loved one. What then are you to do if you learn that your loved one has been sexually abused while in this facility? You’re wondering how did this happen, and why?

As one of the most unsettling, yet tragically common forms of nursing home abuse, sexual abuse is defined as non-consensual sexual contact or interaction with the elderly. A study done by the Journal of Abuse in 2010 found that 70 percent of elder sexual abuse cases occurred within nursing homes. The power difference between the caregiver and the elderly resident is often what increases the severity of this abuse. As a result, elder abuse advocates have realized that sexual abuse is also the most hidden and least reported form of abuse in nursing home facilities.

Some signs of sexual abuse may include (but are not limited to) new sexually transmitted diseases, sudden difficulty sitting or walking, bruises in intimate areas, extreme agitation or withdrawal from social interaction. Nursing home sexual abuse can take a variety of forms, most of which force the abused to suffer in silence.

How does nursing home sexual abuse occur?

In many cases, victims of nursing home sexual abuse are victimized because their conditions make it difficult to communicate the abuse to staff or family. Dementia and Alzheimer’s patients are more likely to be victimized by nursing home employees because of their inability to explain or recall if an incident of sexual abuse has occurred. Additionally, victims of sexual abuse in nursing homes may be intimidated by their abuser with threats to withhold food, medication or other necessities if they speak out.

Another cause for sexual abuse can be other residents in the nursing home with disorders like Alzheimer’s or Dementia, or past criminal history who may sexually abuse other residents. However, it is the responsibility of the nursing home to ensure that those with these types of mental disorders and histories are constantly monitored so that all residents can live safely.

Poor security that admits strangers is also cause for sexual abuse in nursing homes. If a nursing home doesn’t provide adequate security systems, personnel or supervision that mandate guests must sign in for visitation, residents are at risk from sexual abusers entering the facility unidentified. When situations like this occur, the nursing home can and should be held liable for negligence.

And finally, in an unfortunate number of instances, family members are guilty of sexual abuse. This typically occurs when a spouse is moved to a nursing home and is visited by their partner. However, if the nursing home resident’s physical or mental condition doesn’t allow them to make competent decisions regarding sexual relations, this behavior can be considered a form of sexual abuse.

If you believe your loved one may be the victim of sexual abuse in a nursing home or long-term care facility, you must act immediately. First, contact a nursing home abuse attorney like Hupy and Abraham, and then contact the state agency responsible for monitoring nursing homes and request an investigation of the resident’s claims of abuse.

·         Wisconsin clients contact WI DHS – Division of Quality Assurance: 800-642-6552

·         Illinois clients contact IL Department of Public Health: 800-252-4343

·         Iowa clients contact IA Department of Inspections and Appeals: 877-686-0027

Hupy and Abraham has a proven track record of success when it comes to helping victims of nursing home abuse. If you believe your loved one is being sexually abused, call 800-800-5678 to schedule a free, confidential, no-obligation consultation today.