Published on:

Sexual Assault and Rape by Nursing Home Employees

The dreaded phone call comes, and you just cannot believe that it could be true. The call comes from a loved one who resides at a nursing home. The loved one tells you she has been sexually assaulted by one of the nurses or caregivers at the facility. The disturbing trend of nursing home employees sexually assaulting patients is becoming more and more widespread. Even harder to believe is that some nursing homes go to great lengths to cover up sexual abuse or quickly dismiss these allegations instead of conducting a meaningful investigation to find the truth.

It is well known why people are placed in nursing homes in the first place. For starters, they are unable to live independently and adequately care for themselves. Loved ones may not be able to provide them with the necessary care either. Oftentimes, nursing home residents are elderly, sick, and disabled. They have medical conditions preventing them from driving and functioning independently, including Alzheimer’s and dementia. Others have medical conditions requiring them to be monitored 24/7.  Some patients are wheelchair-bound which completely limits their mobility.

Sexual abuse is one form of nursing home abuse. When sexual predators are allowed to work in nursing homes, they are given an opportunity to prey on residents in their most weakened states. For example, a male nursing aid in Minnesota was sentenced to eight years in jail for raping an 83-year-old nursing home patient who had dementia. He was caught molesting the woman in her bed at Walker Methodist Health Center. The eight year sentence was one year more than what prosecutors were seeking. In defense of the sentence, the judge noted how the nursing aide “violated a position of trust” when he abused the patient.

Allegedly, the nursing aide had been investigated by the nursing home multiple times before this incident. Records showed that he had been suspended three times for complaints of patient abuse going back to 2008, including allegations of having intercourse with a 65-year-old multiple sclerosis patient and raping a blind and deaf woman who was 83 years old. Since the latter victim was unable to identify the aide as the perpetrator, he was allowed to continue working at the nursing home, where he continued to molest patients.

According to family members of the Walker Methodist victims, the nursing home quickly dismissed their loved ones’ accusations as fantasies of the residents. This is not unique to Walker Methodist. A recent CNN report noted that between 2013 – 2016, more than 1,000 nursing homes nationwide were cited for mishandling cases of sexual abuse in their facilities.

Unfortunately, sexual assault often goes unreported. When allegations are made, they tend to be quickly dismissed by nursing home management. Some nursing homes are more concerned about their reputation and profits than the well-being of those who live there. Also, sexual predators prey on residents with conditions such as dementia which prevent victims from being able to recall specific details of the attack as well as the identity of the perpetrator. It is therefore highly important for family members to regularly check on their loved ones and look for potential signs of abuse or rape.

In all states, nursing homes owe their patients a duty to act reasonably under the circumstances. It is important for nursing home management to investigate all claims of sexual abuse and take necessary action to help prevent it. In some circumstances, background checks can reveal past instances of sexual misconduct before a doctor, nurse, or staff member is hired and given easy access to vulnerable nursing home patients.