The decision to place a loved one in a nursing home or facility is already a tough one. Once there, you want to believe that they’ll be treated with unconditional respect and care.
Terrifyingly, this is often proven to be untrue. According to a recent report, Brookdale Senior Living is being sued by the family of a 94-year-old woman who was raped in her bedroom at the group’s Jacksonville, Florida elder care facility. The woman, who had been living at the facility for eight years, told her family that while she was getting out of bed, a male wearing scrubs threw her back onto the bed and raped her. She screamed, which caused the man to run away, and was taken to the hospital, where it was determined that she had been sexually assaulted.
This news comes less than month after a video was released of a 76-year-old dementia patient being humiliated into taking off his pants and exposing his genitals at an Illinois nursing home. At least six caregivers involved in the incident pressured the man to expose himself, all while streaming the incident on Facebook live.
While sexual mistreatment is a less common form of elder abuse than neglect, emotional mistreatment, or physical mistreatment, it is still very real and can have devastating consequences on already vulnerable individuals. As family members of someone in a nursing home, your best course of action is to remain vigilant in identifying the signs of sexual abuse against the elderly. This includes:
- Pelvic injuries
- Sudden difficulty walking or sitting
- Development of a sexually transmitted disease
- Bruises or bleeding near the genitals, inner thigh, or anus
- Torn or bloody underwear
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms
- Unusual levels of agitation, social withdrawal, or sexually inappropriate behavior
- Suicidal ideation or suicide attempts
In addition to sexual abuse, many other forms of abuse or neglect can cause physical and emotional health issues in an elders, including:
- Dehydration/Malnutrition: Dehydration is one of the most common ailments in elderly individuals. They are particularly susceptible to dehydration due to reasons including difficulty swallowing and inability to communicate to staff that they are thirsty. Many nursing home employees fail to take this into consideration, leading to dehydration in some or all of the patients in their care. Proper nutrition is also vital for nursing home residents to have a high quality of life — if a patient is not receiving enough food, dangerous weight loss can occur. Vitamin, mineral, and protein deficiencies are also seen regularly in nursing home patients.
- Pressure sores: Pressure sores, or bedsores, occur frequently as a direct result of nursing home neglect. They form when too much pressure is applied to the skin, causing skin and tissue damage due to either sustained pressure (such as a patient lying in bed for too long) or heavy friction. Pressure sores often need to be medically treated with dressings and medication; in serious cases, surgical intervention may become necessary.
- Neglect: There are multiple other forms of neglect that can occur in nursing homes, including emotional or social neglect, hygiene neglect, basic needs neglect, and medical neglect. This can look like a patient falling out of bed and not being helped up in a timely manner, or them not receiving basic kindness and respect from fatigued employees. It can also result in untreated medical issues or the development of nursing home acquired infections.
Above all, believe what the victim says until proven otherwise. Report and document your concerns with the administrator and be prepared to take further steps if you feel such action is justified.
If an elder in your life has been abused or neglected in their nursing home, also consider contacting Baron & Herskowitz for a free and confidential legal initial consultation. Your loved one deserves better.