When families move a loved one into a long-term care facility, they are entrusting the home to provide proper support for their loved one. While these transfers happen every day, they are not easy. Many emotions are tied up in the transfer, and most families would prefer to care for a loved one at home--if they could. Trusting a facility to ensure your family member--husband, wife, mother, father, grandmother--is not neglected is a big step that no family undertakes lightly. That is why reading nursing home ratings, visiting the home, speaking with current residents, and other basic steps are incredibly helpful to ensure you are making the best choice.
Yet, no matter how much due diligence is performed, there comes a point when you simply must trust the facility to do the right thing. More specifically, you must trust the individual employees who work at the home. There are few settings where one individual maintains more power over another as that involving vulnerable seniors in nursing homes and their caregivers. That is why it is incumbent upon owners and operators of these facilities to ensure they recruit only qualified nurses, aides, guards, and others so that residents are not placed at risk.
Far too often, they fail in that duty.
Nursing Home Sexual Assault
For example, NJ.com just reported on th arrest last summer of one former nursing home security guard who is accused of sexually assaulting a disabled resident at the facility where he worked. The residents was a 60-year old woman who suffered several strokes which left her in a wheelchair. In addition, she suffers from epilepsy, dementia, and osteoporosis. Of course, with those medical issues, the senior is completely reliant on her caregivers for even basic day to day aid.
According to the report, the thirty year old guard admitted to the assault. He apparently gave the disabled resident money and cigarettes in exchange for the resident performing oral sex on him. It is exactly the sort of abuse of a power relationship that happens far more than most suspect at these facilities. Obviously in all circumstances it is inexcusable.
The actual assault occurred last year, and his guilty plea came last November. He accepted a second-degree sexual assault conviction, meaning that he must serve at least three years in prison.
As in most of these criminal nursing home cases, the facility itself is also under fire for its conduct which led to the attacks. A civil nursing home abuse lawsuit has also been filed. According to the arguments in that suit, the victimized resident actually told staff members about the assault, asking for help ending the abusive relationship. Yet, apparently even though they were aware of the situation and the resident’s vulnerability--nothing was done. This allowed the guard to attack the resident on multiple occasions.
The individual caregiver who committed these crimes must obviously face criminal sanctions. But the facility itself must not be let off the hook. Those who operate the home have an obligation to ensure their employees act appropriately at all times. When they fail in that duty, the civil law demands they be held accountable. The hope is that by being forced to compensate the victim for the harm, the facility will change their practices to prevent anything similar from happening again.
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