Sexual Abuse in Nursing Homes More Common Than Originally Believed

resident in wheelchair by windowA CNN investigative report has revealed that sexual abuse of nursing home residents is much more frequent than initially thought.

More than 16,000 claims of sexual assault have been reported since 2000 in nursing homes and assisted living facilities in the U.S., according to the Administration for Community Living (ACL).

However, the ACL has stated that this figure does not accurately reflect the real number of sexual assault cases in U.S. nursing homes, only those in which a long-term care ombudsmen resolved the claim. The real number of sexual assault claims in nursing homes is likely much higher. However, no comprehensive national data exists to indicate the true scope of the problem.

Nursing Home Sexual Abuse Claims are Often Mishandled

When sexual assault is reported in a nursing home, state health officials conduct an investigation on behalf of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). The findings are then used to rate facilities and issue fines against the worst offenders.

The CNN investigation analyzed court records and state and federal government documents and found that more than 1,000 nursing homes had been cited by the federal government between 2013 and 2016 for mishandling or failing to prevent cases of sexual abuse. Nearly 100 of these facilities received multiple citations during this period.

Many nursing homes, however, failed to report claims of sexual abuse or actively prevented allegations from surfacing. Reports of sexual abuse brought to the attention of law enforcement were frequently dismissed as well, citing the victim’s confusion and ailing memory.

CNN also found that state health officials responsible for monitoring long-term care facilities often failed to red-flag caregivers who have a record of sexual abuse allegations.

Unfortunately, reporting nursing home abuse is often left up to family members and loved ones.

CNN’S Findings on Sexual Abuse in Nursing Homes

The CMS groups sexual abuse allegations into a category that includes all forms of elder abuse, such as physical, emotional and financial.

Since the agency does not separately track claims of sexual abuse, CNN reviewed every individual abuse claim to uncover the number of facilities cited for sexual assault.

CNN’s investigation revealed that:

  • In 2013, there were 386 claims of sexual abuse committed against nursing home residents in Illinois. Of these claims, 201 accused the caregiver of having committed the abuse, but only 59 claims were confirmed.
  • Eight claims of sexual abuse were investigated in Hawaii between 2011 and 2015, five of which involved the victim’s caregiver.
  • Of the 251 complaints of sexual abuse against a nursing home resident filed in Texas in 2015, only 11 were substantiated.

Between 2010 and 2015, 226 nursing homes were cited for failing to protect residents from sexual assault. About 60 percent of these cases resulted in fines of more than $9 million. Only 16 nursing homes were permanently removed from receiving government funding.

Nursing Home Sexual Abuse Claims Often Involve Staff Members and Caregivers

CNN’s investigation revealed that more than 500 nursing homes have been cited for failing to investigate or report allegations of sexual abuse. These same facilities also failed to properly screen employees who had a history of previous sexual abuse.

Nearly one-fourth of reported nursing home sexual abuse claims involved a caregiver or staff member of the facility. A small number of claims involved a third-party, such as a family member, another resident or an unknown individual.

The most serious allegations of various forms of sexual assault involved caregivers and staff members.

An Unchecked Epidemic

CNN describes its findings as an unchecked epidemic that is rarely discussed.

This is particularly troubling given the fact that the U.S. elderly population over the age of 65 is projected to more than double between 2010 and 2050.

As the elderly population increases, it is important that elderly rights are protected and residents are safe from dangers like sexual assault.

If you suspect that your loved one has been a victim of abuse in a nursing home, our Sacramento nursing home abuse lawyers can help you take action. Do not hesitate to contact us for a free, no obligation consultation to determine your legal options.

Call (916) 777-7777 to speak with one of our personal injury attorneys.