In an ideal world all examples of mistreatment at long-term care facilities would be immediately brought to light, shared with the local community, and used as a rallying point to demand chances that prevent future occurrences. We are far from that ideal. Instead, the vast majority of negligent and abusive care continues unabated and it is only rare instances when families, former employees, or residents themselves come forward and share information about the misconduct.
Our Illinois nursing home neglect lawyers appreciate that the underreporting of poor care is caused by lack of consistent inspections from state officials, incentives to hide conduct by employees, and the inability of many residents to understand the level of care to which they are entitled. In most cases the only time that accountability is actually had is when families come forward after their loved one has already suffered a serious injury or death. Most Illinois nursing home neglect lawsuits arise in that context.
Also important, though less common, are instances when journalistic investigations probe into the care at nursing homes and share information publically about problems. For example, in Illinois some have explained that highly-publicized investigations by the Chicago Tribune spurred reform efforts over the last two years at the statehouse in Springfield. Whether true or not, it is clear that only good can come from widespread public exposure of the actual living conditions in many local long-term care facilities.
Late last month similar investigative reports from NBC News uncovered horrific allegations in Rhode Island of nursing home sexual abuse. According to the report, several witnesses have come forward with claims of sexual abuse against an elderly woman while inside the facility. Making the situation even more heartbreaking, the witnesses-former nursing assistants at the facility-explain that sexual abuse was perpetrated by the 89-year old woman’s own daughters.
Local police officials are investigating the situation, and several employees have apparently provided statement to those investigators. Those privy to the situation incident explain that local police authorities wanted to two daughters –both in their 60s-charged with the sexual abuse. However, prosecutors have thus far declined to charge the woman citing a lack of evidence. This is one example of the criminal law process which can be frustrating to observers. Because of the higher standards of proof required in criminal law matters, prosecutors often decide against pursuing a case even where criminality appears likely to have occurred.
Like anyone, our Chicago nursing home lawyers are shocked by these accusations. We remain saddened by the abuse that so many seniors are forced to endure in their golden years. This particular situation presents a range of novel issues. Of course, in most cases it is the family who observes misconduct being perpetrated by staff members of a long-term care facility. This case is unique in that the shoe was on the other foot and staff members observed sexual misconduct inside the facility by family members. Of course, no matter whom the perpetrator, all instances of elder abuse must be reportedly immediately. The law as well as basic decency demands nothing less.
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