When nursing home residents report sex abuse, will staff listen?

When a parent in the Lexington area starts to need more constant care and supervision than his or her adult children can provide, choosing long-term care is never easy. Family members worry about whether their older relatives will be treated with the love, respect and dignity they deserve. While it's bad enough to contemplate the idea of their nursing home experience being unpleasant in any way, discovering that an incapacitated older relative was raped by a caregiver is nothing short of a nightmare.

Several recent cases of nursing home sexual abuse in Kentucky illustrate a trend: When abused residents speak up, they may find that their complaints are ignored. While many of them have forms of dementia that may cause mental unreliability, allegations of sexual abuse should always be taken seriously. According to police reports, a male caretaker at one Lexington nursing home was caught in the act of what unmistakably appeared to be the rape of an 87-year-old female resident. An administrator called 911. The woman claimed she was raped; the aide pleaded not guilty.

In this case, the employee was charged with knowingly abusing or neglecting an adult. While this alleged abuser was caught, staff at this nursing home may have ignored another patient's cries for help. According to reports, a female resident complained to staff in April that a nurse's aide attempted to sexually molest her in bed. Her complaint was written off as a delusion because she later retracted her story. Although she could have done so for many reasons, such as being threatened by the aide, the nursing home officials did not initiate any investigation or inform state authorities. These cases are not isolated. The Herald-Leader reported that eight out of 107 Kentucky long-term care facility citations were sexually related.

Dismissal of abuse complaints is a form of nursing home neglect. Even if a resident has dementia, every effort must be made to investigate a claim of abuse. Although this nursing home in this case did receive a citation, for patients claiming abuse, the damage is already done. Nursing home residents are often helpless and physically vulnerable, which makes them easier targets for predators. Sexual abuse may also occur between residents if they are not properly supervised. A personal injury attorney can assure that victims of nursing home abuse or neglect receive the justice and compensation they deserve.

Source: Kentucky.com, "Attorney says her client 'absolutely' denies allegations that he abused woman, 87" Valarie Honeycutt Spears, Dec. 06, 2013

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