One of the most devastating types of abuse of elderly residents is sexual abuse. It is almost unbelievable that anyone would engage in this type of abuse of some of the most vulnerable residents living in nursing homes. However, if you have a loved one living in a nursing home, you cannot count on the nursing home to watch out for the signs that she is being sexually abused. You need to understand who the perpetrators are and know the signs that your loved one is a victim of this immoral and criminal act.
What Is Sexual Abuse of a Nursing Home Resident?
Sexual abuse is the engaging of physical or sexual conduct with a nursing home resident that is neither consensual nor wanted. It is also sexual abuse to engage in this conduct with an elderly resident who is confused or unable to give her consent due to her mental or physical condition. Sexual abuse can include the following:
- Any unwanted touching, not just to the genital areas
- Sexual assault or battery
- Sexually-explicit photography of the resident
- Sexual harassment of the nursing home resident
Who Is Most at Risk of Being Sexually Abused in a Nursing Home?
Victims of sexual abuse in nursing homes are often the most vulnerable residents who are unable to defend themselves and too afraid to speak out about the abuse. These residents are most at risk:
- Women who are in general perceived to be weaker than men
- Older residents who are considered weaker and more vulnerable
- Patients who suffer from dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, or other forms of mental impairment
- Residents who are socially isolated from their families, friends, and others
- Residents who suffer from other forms of neglect from their caregivers or family members
- Patients who have a disability, including those that make it difficult for them to communicate
Who Are the Perpetrators of Sexual Abuse of the Elderly?
Perpetrators of sexual abuse of nursing home residents often target those who cannot communicate, are confused, or fear retaliation. The following are common perpetrators who abuse residents:
- Staff members. Nursing home caregivers are often low-paying jobs. While some staff are genuinely caring individuals, others are not, or worse, are attracted to the job because of the vulnerable victims they can abuse. In addition, staff members have ample opportunities to abuse elderly residents who may need help in the restroom, while bathing, and getting dressed. When nursing homes fail to properly screen staff members or take immediate steps to stop inappropriate behavior, they can be liable for compensating the victim of the sexual abuse.
- Other residents. Nursing home residents can abuse weaker residents intentionally or due to their own mental disabilities and confusion. Nursing home staff should be trained to watch for and stop this sexual abuse. When they do not do this, the nursing home may be responsible.
- Third parties. Many third parties, such as vendors, salespersons, medical care providers, and more can come to the nursing home. When a nursing home fails to protect residents from abuse or leaves the resident in an unsafe area where she is vulnerable to being attacked, the victim may be entitled to compensation from the nursing home.
- Family members. Unfortunately, a spouse who visits his partner in the nursing home may miss their sexual relationship. He could sexually abuse the resident and maybe not realize that he has crossed the line into abuse. This is a very sensitive area, and nursing home staff may not take sufficient steps to protect the patient.
Signs That Your Family Member Is a Victim of Sexual Abuse
While victims of sexual abuse are often too afraid of retaliation to speak out, there are signs of abuse that you can watch for. Your family member could exhibit these physical and psychological signs of abuse:
- Developing unexplained sexually transmitted diseases (STD) and infections
- Having bruises in the genital area, thighs, or breasts
- Bleeding in the vaginal area
- Having clothes that are torn or have unusual stains or blood on them
- Exhibiting more difficulty sitting and walking
- Becoming depressed or withdrawn
- Exhibiting fear or anxiety around certain staff members or residents
- Becoming agitated or experiencing unusual mood swings
If you suspect a loved one is being sexually assaulted, you will need to take steps immediately to stop the abuse. You should discuss this with your family member and then contact the nursing home administration, police, and an experienced elder abuse & neglect attorney right away. Brauns Law is here to help you through this process. We urge you to call our office today to schedule a free case evaluation to discuss how we can help you stop the abuse and pursue your loved one’s right to compensation.