Sexual Abuse in Nursing Homes – Little Discussed, Widespread

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Sexual Abuse in Nursing Homes - Little Discussed, Widespread
Sexual Abuse in Nursing Homes - Little Discussed, Widespread

Reports have emerged that vulnerable seniors are being sexually abused and raped by the very people who are paid to take care of them. It is virtually impossible to know how many victims exist. What is even more disturbing is to discover that in many cases, nursing homes and government officials who oversee them are doing too little, or nothing, to put an end to this abuse.

CNN Conducts Study of Alleged Abuse

An analysis of state and federal data and interviews with experts, officials, and families of victims was conducted by CNN. They found that this issue is “more widespread than anyone would imagine.” At times, pure negligence is at work. At other times, nursing home administrators and employees are frustrated when trying to protect victims who cannot remember exactly what happened or who the alleged perpetrators are.

In cases examined by CNN, they found nursing homes were slow to investigate and reluctant to believe accusations. Police often initially saw the claims as unlikely, frequently dismissing allegations because of victims’ failing or confused memories. A very high bar is set for substantiating abuse and state regulators often fail to flag patterns of repeated allegations against any single caregiver. Such systemic failures make it especially difficult for victims to get justice, and even easier for perpetrators to not pay for their crimes, CNN reports.

The personal injury attorneys at Parker Waichman LLP have years of experience representing clients in sexual abuse and neglect lawsuits. The firm offers free, no-obligation case evaluations to any individuals seeking legal information.

Alzheimer Patient Raped

A woman told of her 83-year-old mother who was unable to speak or fight back and was raped by a nursing assistant. The Alzheimer patient, was a resident at the Walker Methodist Health Center in Minneapolis. The mother had fled the violence in her home in Indonesia with her family when she was young, only to be met with sexual violence in her final, and most vulnerable days of her life.

The daughter recounted her mother’s story in court at the 2015 sentencing of the nursing assistant convicted of raping her mother. A fellow caregiver had seen the male nursing assistant in the elderly woman’s room at 4:30 a.m. on December 18, 2014. A bare leg was on each side of his hips, and her adult diaper was open on the bed. The witness saw the 76-year-old aide’s movements and knew she was witnessing a sexual assault, reports CNN.

Nursing Aide Convicted

The nursing assistant eventually pleaded guilty to third-degree criminal sexual conduct with a mentally impaired or helpless victim and was sentenced to eight years in prison. The judge gave an emotional statement directed at the defendant during sentencing remarking that more had been done than the extreme damage to the lives of his victim and her family. The public trust granted to caregivers who have such intimate access to the sick and elderly had been betrayed by the defendant.

Judge Elizabeth Cutter said, “The ramifications of what you did are so far-reaching… It also affected everyone in that facility. Everyone who stays in that facility. Everyone who works at that facility. It affects everyone who has to place a loved one in a facility.”

The defendant apologized at the hearing and said he planned to take his Bible with him to prison.

Multiple Sexual Assault Allegations

Court documents were uncovered by CNN where prosecutors revealed it was not the first time the defendant had been investigated over sexual assault allegations. He had been suspended three times as Walker Methodist officials investigated repeated accusations of sexual abuse at the nursing home, including at least two where he was the main suspect.

The earliest allegation was in 2008. Police investigated allegations the defendant had engaged in sexual intercourse with a 65-year-old who suffered from multiple sclerosis. In another case, a blind and deaf 83-year-old woman was raped multiple times, always at midnight. Her report was investigated by the police just seven months before the December 2014 assault. The woman could not identify her assailant, so several male staffers on duty during the nights of the alleged assaults, including the eventually convicted assailant, were suspended.

None of these allegations were found to be substantiated by the nursing home or the state. Walker Methodist kept the nursing aide working on the overnight shift for years, until that December morning in 2014, when he was caught in the act, according to CNN.

Sexual Abuse in Nursing Homes - Little Discussed, Widespread
Sexual Abuse in Nursing Homes – Little Discussed, Widespread

The Minnesota Department of Health found that the facility then acted immediately and removed the aide to ensure the resident’s safety. The state noted that the facility had previously provided the nursing aide with required abuse training, therefore the facility was not cited for any wrongdoing. The aide alone was held accountable for the assault.

The victim’s daughter in the December 2014 case, had no way of knowing about the previous allegations against the nursing aide. However, she sued the aide, who agreed to an unusual settlement in which he must pay a huge $15 million judgment, but only if he abuses again.

The Minnesota Department of Health told CNN that regardless of the number of allegations, it is barred by state law from releasing the identity of anyone being investigated over an allegation that has not been substantiated.

Legal Advice and Information about Nursing Home Abuse

If your loved one has been abused or mistreated at a nursing home facility, and you are seeking legal information, we urge you to contact the experienced personal injury attorneys at Parker Waichman at 1-800-YOURLAWYER (1-800-968-7529).