Physical or Sexual Abuse
Safety and Security
When you make the choice to move a family member into a nursing home it can be a difficult decision. If you feel that your loved one will have good care in a safe and nurturing setting that you cannot otherwise provide, it makes that decision a bit easier.
Unfortunately, not all nursing homes are the safe havens for the elderly that they claim to be. Physical abuse inflicted on defenseless residents happens all too often; and sexual abuse is one of the most common forms of abuse in nursing homes.
Physical Assault and Abuse
Physical abuse is found in many forms within the walls of nursing homes. Because older people are frailer and more easily injured than younger adults, even a slap or shove can result in serious injury. Staff members may push or shove a resident in order to make them move faster, or pinch, shake, or hit them as punishment. Other common forms of physical abuse include burns, force-feeding, unnecessary chemical or physical restraints, rough handling or throwing them into bed, and hair pulling.
Often residents are fearful of reciprocity and won’t talk about the abuse. It is important to look for any signs of suspicious or unexplained injuries, including broken bones, bruises, restraint marks, unexplained hair loss, internal injuries, and sprains. Furthermore, be aware of any changes in behavior, particularly exhibiting fear, anxiety, or stress when a certain staff member walks in. Also question if they are not allowed to have a private visit or if your loved one is making up excuses as to why they are injured.
Physical assault can also happen at the hands of another resident, especially if the home is understaffed or the staff is neglectful of their duties.
Sexual Assault and Abuse
As unbelievable as it may be, sexual abuse is an extremely common occurrence in nursing homes. Because nursing home residents are often weak and defenseless, they are easy prey for sexual predators. Sexual abuse consists of any non-consensual sexual contact, including touching, sodomy, rape, sexually-explicit photography, sexual coercion, and sexual harassment.
Sexual abuse can happen at the hands of a staff member, a stranger, another resident, or even a family member. Often unqualified and poorly screened staff members are the abusers. Some of these people are untrained, minimum-wage employees that move from one job to the next, often having a great deal of contact with residents by helping to bathe and dress them or assist them in the bathroom.
Abuse by a stranger can occur when a nursing home does not provide proper security for their residents. Understaffing and lack of supervision can result in one resident taking advantage of another resident in a sexual manner. Lastly, a spouse that comes to visit may take advantage of a disabled resident who is unable to stop the sexual contact, and due to their legal relationship, the nursing home staff does nothing about it even in obvious cases of abuse.
Victims of sexual assault in nursing homes are often residents who cannot speak or are unable to defend themselves due to a stroke or other physical ailment. It is important to be aware of unusual symptoms or sudden changes in behavior. Signs of sexual abuse include bleeding from the vagina or anus, stained or bloody sheets, unexplained sexually transmitted diseases or genital irritation and redness, and fear when a particular staff member approaches for bathing, help in the bathroom, etc.
If you suspect sexual abuse, try to establish what happened by speaking directly with your loved one. If they confirm your suspicions, report the incident to the police, and obtain any emergency medical help you feel is warranted.
If the situation is suspicious, but you cannot confirm abuse, speak with the nursing home administration about your suspicions and discuss the problem with your loved one’s doctor. Keep close tabs on the situation, and if the warning signs continue, call the authorities.
Shea Law Group
Physical and sexual assault should not be tolerated by anyone. However, abuse of frail, helpless nursing home residents is especially heinous. If you know, or even suspect, that your family member is suffering abuse at the hands of the very people entrusted with their wellbeing, call us for a free consultation and let us help you determine your next course of action.
Our compassionate legal team is here to help and we never charge a penny unless you receive compensation. Call us today at (877)-365-0040.