In a world full of crazy people, some have managed to infiltrate the world of nursing homes. While occurrences involving the sexual abuse of nursing home patients are certainly not a common place occurrence, the incidents do occur— yet too often they are brushed aside by nursing home staff whom may attempt to hide the incident out of embarrassment or perhaps at the request of nursing home management.
Regardless of the underlying reason, failing to report mistreatment of nursing home patients is unacceptable– and illegal. Laws applicable to nursing homes require facilities to: 1) protect patients from harm and 2) to report allegations of misconduct to appropriate state agencies.
Omissions made with respect to both of the above obligations landed Hazard Nursing Home of Kentucky in a potentially troublesome situation. During the course of litigation on an unrelated wrongful death case, several nursing home employees disclosed at their depositions that they witnessed an 88-year-old woman get sexually assaulted on multiple occasions by other nursing home patients. When the incidents were reported to nursing home supervisors, they instructed the staff not to take any action because there was no ‘harm’ to the patient (who happened to be disabled).
As a result of the nursing home employees testimony, both a civil lawsuit has been initiated by the woman’s family as well as an investigation has been triggered by Kentucky officials.
Hopefully, these recent actions will improve the care provided to all patients at this facility. Traumatic events, such as this, involving mentally and physically handicapped patients can be particularly troublesome to identify and provide treatment for.
In several cases I have worked on regarding sexual assaults of the disabled, we have worked with experts in the fields of psychology and trauma to attempt to more accurately convey the full impact of the event to both defense lawyers as well as potential jurors. In some circumstances, these experts can help explain the trauma when the victim of the assault may not be able to do so.
Knowing the telltale signs of sexual abuse:
For caregivers, knowing the signs of potential sexual abuse is important in order to prevent further mistreatment of the patient as well as others in the facility. Common signs of sexual trauma include:
- Fear of certain people
- Difficulty walking or standing
- Change in behavior, such as crying or withdrawal
- Bleeding in the genital area or anus
- Bruising in the inner thigh
- Sexually transmitted diseases
- Pain in the genital area
- Unusual discussion regarding sexual issues
For laws related to Kentucky nursing homes, look here.
A failure to protect: Sexual abuse in nursing homes, Kentucky.com July 25, 2010