The Chicago Tribune is reporting a disturbing story of criminal sexual abuse by a Chicago-area nursing home worker against an elderly dementia patient who was entrusted to his care. Police arrested the former Lexington Health Care worker on charges of aggravated criminal sexual assault. Our Chicago nursing home abuse attorneys know that the emotional and physical trauma he caused by his inappropriate actions will have a lasting impact on the nursing home resident and her family.
The alleged perpetrator was working as a certified nursing assistant at the Orland Park care facility when police say a co-worker saw him engaged in sexual contact with a 93-year-old dementia patient. The woman was examined by a sexual abuse expert, who confirmed that she was assaulted. According to nursing home officials, the man worked at the facility for about a week-and-a-half prior to the attack and did not have a history of sexual abuse. An internal investigation is underway.
Sadly, this is not the first case of reported sexual abuse at an Illinois nursing home facility. A recent Chicago Tribune investigation revealed allegations of rape and criminal sexual assault at more than 100 Illinois nursing homes since 2007. Although many of the cases involved attacks by fellow residents, at least a handful were reportedly committed by a nursing home employee.
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Elderly and disabled nursing home residents are particularly vulnerable to sexual abuse because many of them have restricted mobility and mental disorders. They are often not able to understand or consent to sexual intercourse, and are threatened or physically forced into sexual acts. The level of dependency and the close relationship that residents have with nursing home workers also puts their safety at risk, because they place a great amount of trust in these healthcare professionals to protect their best interests.
Proving that a nursing home sexual assault occurred is difficult in many situations, because some nursing home residents are unable to report the attack due to a mental illness, disability, or impaired memory. Fear is another major factor that makes nursing home residents unwilling to report sexual abuse. Accordingly, staff members need to carefully monitor residents and be aware of symptoms of abuse. The Illinois Elder Abuse and Neglect Act requires that nursing home and long-term care facility workers report suspected abuse to state agencies. In this case, where a nursing home employee committed a horrific act against a resident, who may not have been able to report the abuse herself due to dementia, the sexual abuse was still discovered because another employee reported to the proper authorities.
Nursing homes can prevent many cases of sexual abuse against residents by conducting criminal background checks for all employees and residents. Sexual abuse is physically and psychologically damaging to nursing home victims, and every possible precaution should be taken in order to avoid serious harm. In the event that a sexual attack occurs, immediate attention and counseling needs to be provided to the victim. Nursing home residents may have underlying mental or physical conditions and further trauma may exacerbate those conditions, causing potentially life-threatening health complications.