Elderly Sexual Abuse in Nursing Homes
Protecting Elderly Victims of Sexual Abuse
Unfortunately, sexual abuse in nursing homes is not an uncommon occurrence. Sexual assault by caregivers is especially prevalent in residents who are not able to protect themselves—such as patients who suffer from a condition involving memory loss, confusion, or difficulties communicating. In fact, statistics released by the National Center on Elder Abuse showed that 53% of 200 adult women with disabilities had experienced sexual abuse of some kind.
At Pintas & Mullins, we believe in standing up for the victims of elder sexual abuse and helping demand justice on their behalf. If your loved one has suffered from abuse of this kind, let our nursing home abuse lawyers fight for you.
Defining Elder Sexual Abuse
Sexual abuse can be defined as any form of touching without consent; this can include everything from rape to verbal harassment to non-consensual videotaping to even touching. Such elder sexual and physical abuse may have occurred because the victim was forced, tricked, manipulated, or coerced. In some cases, the abuse may have been in a situation where the elderly individual was not in a position to communicate their consent to the perpetrator.
What Are Common Signs of Elder Sexual Abuse?
The following are all potential signs that a victim is suffering from elder sexual abuse:
- A new sexually transmitted infection (STI)
- Problems with either sitting or walking
- Injuries to the pelvic area
- Bruising on thighs or genital areas
- Pain, bleeding, or irritation around genital areas
- Bloody, torn or stained undergarments
- Agitation or withdrawal from social activity
- Panic attacks, anxiety or symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
In nursing homes, sexual abuse and harassment may be attributed to the failure to perform background checks on employees, inadequate training procedures, understaffing problems, failure to protect residents from this criminal behavior, failure to report incidents of sexual abuse, or failure to investigate suspicions / allegations.
What is Sexual Abuse
Elder sexual abuse is any form of sexual assault or abuse to a person over the age of 65 years of age. Oftentimes sexual abuse causes emotional and physical harm for victims and should be taken very seriously. It can have devastating effects on victims and cause permanent damage.
Elderly individuals are vulnerable to many different types of elder abuse. If someone you love experienced abuse while living in a nursing home, you could be eligible to file a legal claim. Speaking with a nursing home abuse lawyer can help you determine your options.
Why People Choose to Live in Nursing Homes
There are many reasons why nursing home care appeals to older adults, or those who are no longer fully independent. Nursing homes can offer social opportunities and community support for residents. They provide nutritious meals and help with service. Nursing homes are also staffed with trained professionals that can assist with medical needs. This might include medication administration or support with bathing and getting dressed. Additionally, nursing homes are usually staffed at all hours of the day in case there is an emergency.
While most nursing home residents are safe and well cared for, unfortunately, this is not always the case. One study conducted by the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) found that over half of staff members in nursing homes admitted to mistreating a resident in the year prior to the study. If you’re asking what is elder sexual abuse, learning more about the abuse and neglect of elderly adults, including sexual abuse, can help you notice and report any suspicious activity and protect the well-being of your loved ones and those around you.
Nursing Home Abuse
Nursing home abuse affects thousands of adults over the age of 65 every year. It can lead to injury, pain, and suffering, abuse and neglect, including elder sexual abuse, can even result in death. Victims may also experience psychological trauma that takes a lifetime to overcome. Families and victims can be burdened with additional medical expenses related to abuse. Nursing home abuse and sexual abuse of the elderly is a very serious threat to the health and well-being of your loved ones that you should know about.
Elderly adults are sometimes targeted due to deteriorations in physical and mental health that makes them vulnerable. If you’re wondering what is elder sexual abuse because you think your loved one is the victim of sexual abuse while living in a nursing home, it is important to know how you can get legal and medical help.
What to Do if You Need Help
If you suspect that a loved one or family member is experiencing elder sexual abuse, you need to report the incident immediately. You can report to a person of authority at a nursing home, as well as a police officer or legal authority. Securing the safety of an abuse victim is of paramount importance. You should also seek medical attention on behalf of the victim if any injuries or need is present.
If you are considering taking legal action after the sexual abuse of a loved one or family member, our firm will be able to help you determine your options.
Signs of Elder Sexual Abuse
Elder sexual abuse occurs when any unwanted or forced behavior that is sexual in nature takes place. Many times, the effects of sexual abuse are long-lasting and can require years of treatment. It is important to understand the signs of abuse to help stop and prevent cases that could be happening around your loved one. If you notice any of the following signs of elder sexual abuse in your family member, get help immediately. They could be in danger.
- Unexplained bruising, cuts, scrapes, or signs of physical trauma
- Complaints or fear of a particular person or nursing home staff member
- Change in personality
- Signs of anxiety or depression
- Sleeping difficulties
- Presence of sexually transmitted diseases
- Torn or bloody underclothing
- Difficulties sitting or walking
- Decline in attention to personal hygiene
- Lower self-esteem
These are but a few of the many signs that something could be wrong. The more you know about the signs of elder sexual abuse, the more prepared you will be to report suspicious behavior and prevent these terrible events from happening to someone you love or those around them.
No one should make sexual advances towards you or your loved one without consent. This includes verbal advances, or any type of behavior that is unwelcomed or makes a person uncomfortable. Consent means permission for any type of behavior.
In some cases, elderly individuals lack the ability to verbally or physically consent or object to an action. Not being able to clearly communicate an objection does not equate to consent. If consent is not given for any type of verbal or physical action, it is possible that abuse has occurred.
Perpetrators of sexual abuse towards the elderly come in different forms. In most cases, the perpetrator is someone a victim knows. This could be a staff member at a nursing home, acquaintance, visitor, friend, family member, or person left alone with the victim. If you think your loved one is being sexually abused, keeping an eye out for the warning signs of elder sexual abuse will help you know when to report that something might be wrong.
Vulnerability of the Elderly
It is sad and maddening to consider that the elderly people in your life might be victims of abuse. Unfortunately, elderly individuals are sometimes targeted by abusers for several reasons.
As people age, they experience a gradual deterioration in physical and mental capacity. This can create impairment if it becomes severe. Older individuals might become forgetful, lose the ability to articulate, and grow less aware of surroundings. Sometimes elderly adults report incidents of abuse but authorities do not fully take their account seriously, on behalf of mental impairment. All of these factors contribute to a vulnerability that abusers can prey on.
Physical impairment can also play a role in abusers targeting the elderly. If an older person is less able to fight back or escape a dangerous situation, this plays into the hands of the perpetrator.
The elderly population is also at risk for environmental reasons. Many dependent adults rely on caregivers to help with daily needs. This creates the potential for more private settings in which elder abuse can occur.
Nursing home residents and elderly adults are prone to injury due to age, not to mention the emotional toll that abuse takes on victims and family members. If you suspect that a loved one is experiencing elder sexual abuse, there are ways you can get help.
Causes of Failure To Protect Residents
Nursing homes have a responsibility to ensure the protection and safety of their elderly residents. If a nursing home facility fails to ensure the basic needs of its residents, elderly seniors could suffer from serious injuries or even death. In other cases, nursing home residents suffer from sexual abuse due to the lack of supervision and care.
Understaffed Nursing Home Facilities
The understaffing of nursing homes presents a serious problem throughout the United States. The legal requirements under the Nursing Home Reform Law of 1987 state that a registered nurse must remain available within the nursing home for eight consecutive hours, seven days a week. Additionally, nursing homes must have a licensed nurse available for all elderly residents’ needs 24 hours a day. Finally, other caregivers and staff members must also provide care and protection for residents of nursing homes to ensure their safety and protection from any kind of physical harm, including sexual abuse.
Without proper staffing, meeting basic of seniors such as nutrition, hydration, repositioning for those elderly residents that remain bedridden or wheelchair-bound, or assistance going to the restroom may prove impossible. When nursing home staff facilities remain understaffed, elderly residents experience both acute and chronic health conditions and injuries. Without proper supervision due to understaffing, nursing home residents may experience sexual abuse by other nursing home staff members, other residents, or even visitors to the facility.
Caregiver Stress and Burnout
When nursing home facilities remain understaffed and overworked, the employees may ultimately suffer from serious stress, anxiety, depression, frustration, and eventual burnout. Taking care of elderly residents takes both physical and mental endurance. Under the additional stresses of understaffed and overworked conditions, caregivers and other nursing home employees simply do not or cannot provide proper care and protection of residents.
Mistakes happen when people suffer from exhaustion and burnout, and in the case of nursing homes, elderly residents may not receive their basic needs and protection they deserve. If caregivers are too exhausted to continually monitor the activities of the nursing home residents, the residents may remain vulnerable to sexual abuse by other residents, nursing home staff employees, or visitors to the facility.
Nursing home facilities may have high turnover rates due to understaffing and overworking of employees. Nursing home staff members may feel forced to leave due to their unhealthy employment conditions. In an attempt to refill these positions, nursing home facilities may hire inexperienced employees and then immediately expect them to meet the physical, emotional, health, and safety needs of the residents. In some cases, insufficient training of newly hired employees can lead to elder abuse, neglect, and the inability to protect residents from sexual assault.
These insufficiently trained nursing home staff members may never receive appropriate guidance regarding how to accurately protect nursing home residents from sexual abuse or even identify the signs that a nursing home resident suffered from sexual abuse.
Signs of Sexual Abuse in Nursing Home Residents
While the causes of failure to protect residents in nursing homes differ, the results are the same when an elderly person suffers from sexual abuse. You should immediately contact the nursing home management If you visit your elderly family member in a nursing home and notice:
- Bruising or injuries of any kind with no explanation, especially in the groin area
- Decreased mobility, or the inability to walk, stand, or sit without pain
- Newly acquired sexually transmitted diseases
- Torn or ripped clothing or bedding, or dirty clothes, soiled bedding, unkempt appearance
- Extreme changes in your elderly loved one’s personality, including fear, anger, depression, anxiety, mental regression, soothing techniques such as rocking or thumb-sucking, or specific fear or avoidance of specific nursing home employees
Increased Risk Factors for Elder Sexual Abuse
Abuse comes in many forms and can ruin your life as a victim. It can place a physical, emotional, and financial toll on you and your family that haunts you for years. Sometimes elderly individuals are sexually abused in nursing homes. There are certain risk factors that could increase the chance of elder abuse, which include:
- Depending on a caregiver or other person(s) for daily and medical needs
- Caregiver depression, substance abuse, or inability to manage stress
- Mental or physical impairment
- Inadequate services provided by a nursing home, including poorly trained staff
- Social isolation of the victim, lack of support
These are a few of the many risk factors that may put a loved one in danger of being sexually abused. Understanding the increased risk factors for elder sexual abuse can help you recognize and stop abusive behavior, as well as prevent future abuse. It is easy to see the scope of this problem. If your loved one possesses any increased risk factors for elder sexual abuse, they could be in danger. Staying aware of the signs, symptoms, and risk factors of elder sexual abuse will help you prevent abuse and keep your loved ones safe.
Prevention and Treatment
There is no perfect way to prevent elder sexual abuse, but there are steps you can take to help protect your loved ones from the likelihood of abuse.
If you notice your loved one complaining about a particular staff member, friend, visitor, family member, or other potential perpetrators, be sure to closely monitor the situation. Fear, avoidance, and complaints are signs that something could be wrong.
Pay attention to any symptoms of sexual abuse. These can be physical, like cuts, scrapes, bruises, or injury to the pelvic region. Symptoms also present themselves emotionally, such as sudden personality change, anxiety, or depression.
Do your best to keep your loved one away from strangers or one on one situations with caregivers when no one else is present in the room. Be sure that your loved one has a support system of community, friends, and trusted individuals to speak to if something could be wrong.
The treatment of elder sexual abuse victims depends on the severity of the injuries. You should seek the advice of a medical professional if your loved one experienced sexual abuse.
Seeking Legal Aid
The most important thing to consider if your loved one is possibly being abused is their safety. Doing your best to minimize the increased risk factors for elder sexual abuse is important, but it is not a fail-proof way to prevent abuse. Unfortunately, everyone is at risk for abusive behavior. If you notice any indications of potentially abusive behavior, report it immediately. Your loved one should also seek medical help for necessary treatment.
In the aftermath of elder sexual abuse, you and your family might wonder if there is anything you can do to seek justice for your loved one. In some cases, victims of abuse take legal action. Sometimes there is recoverable compensation for victims. A nursing home abuse lawyer will be able to help outline your options and answer questions you might have about the process.
Sexual Abuse Effects
Elder sexual abuse is a serious problem that can have devastating, long-lasting effects on victims and forever change lives. Any behavior that is unwanted or non-consensual and sexual in nature classifies as sexual abuse. This can hurt a victim physically and mentally, and lead to permanent damages and ongoing medical treatment. The effects of elder sexual abuse might include:
- Wounds, cuts, scrapes, bleeding, and other signs of physical injury
- Broken bones and fractures
- Damage to the pelvic or reproductive area
- Anxiety, depression
- Difficulty sleeping
- Sudden change in personality
- Development of a distrust or fear in people
- PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder)
No effect of sexual abuse is too minor for immediate attention. Understanding the effects of elder sexual abuse, why elderly individuals are sometimes targeted, and how you can seek help are all important factors in spotting abuse and preventing future occurrences. If you see something, say something. Your loved one could be in immediate danger.
Why the Elderly are Vulnerable
Older adults are sometimes targeted by abusers for several reasons. One reason elderly individuals are sometimes vulnerable for sexual abuse is because of mental impairment. Not all older adults are mentally impaired, but as we biologically age, there tends to be a decrease in mental capacity. In severe cases, like the development of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, elderly adults can become easily confused and have a difficult time remembering things. They might even lose the ability to speak coherently altogether.
This creates a problematic scenario for victims of sexual abuse. Not only could a person be unable to express consent or objection to sexual behavior towards them, they also may not be fully aware it is happening. To make matters worse, sometimes people in positions of authority do not believe the accounts of victims due to their mental state. Physical limitations also increase the vulnerability of older adults. Our bodies naturally get weaker and less mobile with age. This makes physically resisting an unwanted advance all the more difficult. It is a very sad reality that some abusers prey on victims who are unable to fight back or escape dangerous situations.
Understanding the effects of elder sexual abuse will help you flag suspicious behavior so that you can report it immediately. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to minimize the risk of abuse.
Determining Whether Your Loved One Is Experiencing Abuse and Protecting Them
Anyone can be a victim of elder sexual abuse, and there are ways to determine whether sexual abuse is happening to your family member and how you can protect them from abuse:
- Pay attention to complaints or avoidance of specific caregivers or nursing home staff
- Do not allow your loved one to be alone with a stranger, new caregiver, or person who is reasonably suspicious
- Keep an eye out for the symptoms and signs of elder sexual abuse, including physical marks or change in behavior
- Make sure your loved one has a social support system if they are living in a home
- Do research on any nursing home facility your loved one is living in to be sure there is no history of abuse
- Understand the resources available to you and your loved one if you think abuse is occurring. Know where to report problematic observations or behavior
There is no fail-proof way to prevent elder abuse but learning more about what you can do may help you protect those you care about. If someone you love is exhibiting signs of elder sexual abuse, there are ways you can get help.
Sexual Abuse Preventing
Unfortunately, there are nursing home staff who we trust and pay to take care of our family that seek to exploit the vulnerability of residents. The staff may perceive the victim as incapable of defending themselves or coherently reporting the abuse.
However, nursing home sexual abuse, a type of elder abuse, may be exposed via thorough and competent investigation with the help of an elder abuse attorney. If you or a family member is a victim of sexual abuse in a senior living facility, you may be entitled to recover compensation. At the same time, you can help prevent further sexual abuse in nursing homes. Contact Pintas & Mullins Law Firm immediately at (800) 842-6336.
Nursing home administrators may be hesitant to believe sexual abuse accusations because of a resident’s declining memory or inconsistent accounts of what happened. Also, administrators may attempt to conceal evidence of abuse from the public and the authorities. Accordingly, they may be slow to investigate the abuse report or fail to investigate altogether. Investigators may view the claims as unfounded and discredit reporting victims. In turn, victims may feel powerless and reluctant to report the problem.
Nursing Home Abuse Is a Serious Issue
The criminal standard for proving the abuse requires that the abuser must be proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. This is the highest legal standard possible to meet, and this can prove to be a challenge on the part of officials to investigate and properly document incidences of sexual abuse. This may be a particularly prevalent problem in cases involving a single abuser. And it makes preventing sexual abuse in nursing homes difficult.
Another obstacle to prevention is caused by inadequate training of nursing home staff. A failure to adequately educate caretakers in these facilities often results in an inability on the part of nonoffending caretakers to recognize the warning signs of abuse committed by their coworkers. Thus, the abuse becomes more likely to continue undetected. Another issue is frequent understaffing of nursing homes, according to the Sept. 2016 issue of the journal Health Service Insights.
These intrinsic obstacles can make preventing sexual abuse in nursing homes more difficult for victims and easier for offenders to continue. Nursing home sexual abuse can take many forms. This type of abuse can range from:
- Inappropriate touching
- Sexual threats
- Display of pornographic materials
Sexual abuse may be difficult for family members and caretakers to detect. However, there are verbal and nonverbal warning signs which may indicate that sexual abuse has taken place. It is possible that abuse has taken place if the resident:
- Suddenly becomes unusually angry or withdrawn.
- Suddenly and unusually wants to leave the facility.
- Has negative reactions to specific staff members.
- Displays physical indications of sexual abuse, such as bruising near genitals.
- Has symptoms of sexually transmitted diseases.
Sexual abuse is always a highly sensitive and complex matter. So, it is necessary to hire an attorney who will handle your case with compassion, discretion, and competence. We are available to speak with you about your case 24 hours per day, 7 days per week. If you have concerns about finding an elder abuse attorney that is right for you, contact Pintas & Mullins Law Firm today at (800) 842-6336 for a free and confidential consultation.
To schedule a free consultation with Pintas & Mullins, give our nursing home abuse lawyers a call at (800) 842-6336 today.