“More Than 16,000 Complaints of Sexual Abuse Have Been Reported Since 2000:” CNN’s Report on the Safety of Nursing Home Residents

February 23, 2017 | Crandall & Pera Law
“More Than 16,000 Complaints of Sexual Abuse Have Been Reported Since 2000:” CNN’s Report on the Safety of Nursing Home Residents

Being a plaintiff injury attorney means you’re going to hear some truly devastating stories. You’re going to work with people whose lives have been turned upside down, who have lost loved ones, and who have been permanently injured in some way. When you work with nursing home residents, like our team in Kentucky does, you’re going to see a lot of really heart-breaking cases of neglect and physical abuse involving a vulnerable part of society: the elderly. It’s never easy, but you work hard and you fight even harder on behalf of the people who need you.

But some stories are even more horrific than you can imagine. A recent CNN investigatory piece, titled “Sick, Dying and Raped in America’s Nursing Homes,” is one of those stories. Actually, it’s a collection of stories about the atrocities committed against an aging population throughout the country – not just in Kentucky, but in every state. According to their research:

“More than 16,000 complaints of sexual abuse have been reported since 2000 in long-term care facilities (which include both nursing homes and assisted living facilities), according to federal data housed by the Administration for Community Living. But agency officials warned that this figure doesn't capture everything -- only those cases in which state long-term care ombudsmen (who act as advocates for facility residents) were somehow involved in resolving the complaints” (emphasis ours).

CNN’s own research showed that between 2013 and 2016, more than 1,000 nursing homes were cited by the federal government “for mishandling or failing to prevent alleged cases of rape, sexual assault and sexual abuse at their facilities.” Almost 10% of them had more than one citation. Close to 500 facilities didn’t contact the police, didn’t do thorough background checks on employees, and didn’t investigate accusations.

Why are so many nursing home residents sexually abused?

Rape and sexual abuse are rarely about sex: they about power. And few people are more powerless than elderly patients suffering from degenerative diseases, or from conditions like Alzheimer’s or dementia. Patients in nursing homes need help taking care of themselves for a variety of reasons, which can make them easy targets for abuse or neglect. They simply cannot fend off an abuser.

Furthermore, many nursing home abuse victims are unable to point out their attackers. They may suffer from visual impairment or cognitive disabilities, or may be unable to communicate verbally in any way. CNN points out that “victims with dementia and other diseases are often considered such unreliable witnesses that even cases in which an assailant confesses to the crime can end up being thrown out or result in little punishment for the defendant.”

Protecting nursing home residents from abuse

First and foremost, facilities need to be held accountable for crimes committed against their residents, no matter what kind of crimes they are. In order to do that, though, we must implement some kind of reporting system to keep track of these abuses, and to ensure that these reports get to the proper authorities.

We must also demand that any incident of abuse, sexual or otherwise, is thoroughly investigated by the facility, and by the police. This means treating these cases like the crimes they are: witness interviews, preservation of evidence, and justice for the victims.

Prevention of these crimes is critical. To that end, a handful of states have passed laws allowing cameras to be placed in residents’ rooms (Kentucky isn’t one of them), but there are other issues regarding privacy that can complicate the matter, especially if the resident shares a room. Until the law is clear, nursing homes need to properly train and supervise their employees.

At Crandall & Pera Law, we stand up for the rights of our clients, and seek justice for those whose rights have been violated. Our trusted team of Kentucky nursing home abuse attorneys help guide you when your elderly loved one has been harmed. To learn more about our services, or to schedule a complimentary consultation, please call 877-686-8879 or fill out our contact form.