The Tragedy of Sexual Abuse in Nursing Homes

Nursing Home Blog

It’s horrifying to think about, but thousands of patients in nursing homes have been sexually abused. There have been more than 16,000 complaints of sexual abuse in nursing homes and assisted living facilities since 2000. That number only includes cases where state ombudsmen were involved, so the actual number of incidents is likely to be much higher.

Abusers Target Helpless Victims

Abusers and rapists are looking for easy victims. They target seniors who are helpless and can’t fight back. Elderly sexual abuse victims often have cognitive disabilities. In some cases, they can’t give a coherent account of their assault because they are unable to remember who their attackers were or exactly what happened. Some victims remember, but are unable to speak. Others don’t tell anyone because they feel ashamed.

Even when victims speak out, nursing home administrators and police investigators may not believe them. Even worse, some long-term care facilities know that sexual abuse has occurred and deliberately try to cover it up.

For a long time, this has been a hidden problem; however, people are starting to become more aware as the topic hits mainstream media. A recent episode of “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit” tells the story of an 80-year-old Alzheimer’s patient who is raped at an assisted living facility. But there is still a long way to go to give this horrible problem the attention it needs.

Why the Problem Persists

Nursing assistants at long-term care facilities tend to be low paid, which makes it hard for the facilities to hire and retain quality workers. Patients are particularly vulnerable at night, when there are fewer supervisors around.

Facilities need to do more to prevent sexual abuse, such as investigating it when it does occur and providing more training and better supervision of workers.

Signs of Possible Sexual Abuse

If you have a loved one living in a nursing home or assisted living facility, you should be alert for signs of possible sexual assault, including bruising in the genital area or on the inner thighs and behavioral changes, such as withdrawal from social activities.

If You Suspect Abuse, Get Help

If you have any reason to suspect your loved one may be the victim of sexual abuse, call the elder abuse attorneys at Garcia & Artigliere at (800) 281-8515 for a free consultation to find out more about what you can do to help your loved one.