The issue of sexual assault of elders in nursing homes is a serious one. The phrase promulgated on many college campuses to bring awareness to rape and other unwanted sexual encounters, “No Means No,” also applies in nursing homes. That is, elderly patients who do not maintain good cognitive condition may become victims of unwanted sexual advances and assaults. For example, elders who are Alzheimer’s patients or have dementia cannot effectively consent to sex because of their cognitive impairments resulting from those conditions. Moreover, sexual offenders and predators are usually attracted to individuals who are vulnerable. Certainly, elderly residents of nursing homes are vulnerable to sexual manipulation, coercion and assault. When considering a nursing home or observing one in which a loved one is staying, consideration should be given to the security procedures of the facility. Are outsiders allowed to come and go, or must they check in? How often do aides and others check on individual residents, in order to assure that unwanted individual are not in their rooms? A check of local crime reports may also reveal sexual assaults or rapes near or in the facility.
Unfortunately, many nursing home sexual assaults are committed by third party criminals with no ties to the nursing home itself. For example, a man was arrested in September for walking into a Kentucky nursing home near Knoxville, Tennessee, and sexually assaulting a resident who had dementia. According to the police, he walked into the nursing home, entered the patient’s room, exposed his genitals, and let the patient hold them. A nurse entered the room, caught him in the act, and called the police. Officers charged the man with intoxication of alcohol, indecent exposure and sexual abuse.
Further, some nursing home residents are victims of sexual abuse by nursing home employees. A nursing home may negligently fail to conduct criminal history background checks on employees, or it may recklessly ignore an applicant’s prior history of sexual offenses. In such situations, the nursing home itself places vulnerable elderly residents in direct danger of sexual abuse. When considering a nursing home, ask administrators about their application hiring processes. Ask if they conduct criminal background checks on potential employees. Ask point-blank about whether any of their staff have prior charges or convictions for sexual offenses. Learn about the people who will be taking care of your loved one.
If you find that a loved one may have been sexually assaulted while in a nursing home, you should contact law enforcement immediately. It is imperative that an official police report be made in order to document the event and attempt to identify the perpetrator, and that physical testing of the victim be accomplished in order to identify the possible transmission of sexually transmitted diseases. Under Tennessee law, any such suspected assault must be reported, under the Tennessee Adult Protection Act. Finally, psychological care for the victim will likely be needed, as such transgressions against them often result in depression, withdrawal and possibly exacerbation of existing mental conditions. Then, you should contact experienced nursing home lawyers like Nahon, Saharovich & Trotz. Our firm has the resources and legal knowledge to investigate and pursue the liable parties. After all, even though they may not be able to remain independent in their own homes any longer, nursing home residents deserve continued dignity and safety.