A case in the state of Washington has caught attention for the heinous violation that a nursing home owner committed against one of his facility’s patients. We have constantly seen case after case of physical and verbal elder abuse, as well as negligence in treatment and attention, but cases of sexual assault and abuse are not always at the forefront of these nursing home-related stories. Of the various types of abuse and neglect that patients and residents can suffer, what occurred at the AA Adult Family Home in Auburn, Washington, is one of the most heinous, vile and unforgivable actions and betrayals of trust.
As was reported last month, hidden camera footage documented the 67-year old owner of the AA Adult Family Nursing Home raping an 83-year old female patient in her room. As one might expect, these accusations go beyond any type of civil or administrative remedy that the state could take, and the accused nursing home owner was taken into custody by police and charged with second degree rape. In addition, the other residents (there were about only a dozen total patients in the entire home) were moved to hospitals until they could be permanently settled elsewhere to continue receiving care. Those residents, who mostly suffered from some dementia, also underwent exams as a precaution to determine if they also had been victims of sexual assaults. As was also reported, the victim in this horrific attack suffered from dementia. While any nursing home resident can be subject to abuse and neglect by facility staffers, those that suffer from mental inhibiting ailments like Alzheimer’s disease or dementia are particularly vulnerable because it may be difficult for them to understand what is happening to them, and they have trouble articulating and reporting the abuse.
Given possible past behavior and the knowledge that these patients suffer from dementia, others may not understand or believe what they are attempting to say, and it could be difficult to detect the abuse. Thus there is an added impetus to ensure that these patients are carefully monitored, and families and loved ones must be particularly vigilant for attempts to report abuse.
The Issue of Cameras
This particular case also brings to the fore the growing use of hidden cameras inside patients’ rooms. This victim’s family placed the camera in her room and witnessed the horrible assault when reviewing the footage. Without this camera evidence, it could have been near impossible to know what was going on absent any obvious signs such as bruising or injuries. It is a tremendous credit to these family members that they recognized certain signs that things seemed to be “off” and endeavored to investigate further.
This horrible case shows the possible danger that patients, particularly those with dementia, face at the hands of abusive nursing home staff, and that such abuse can also be sexual. It also shows that it is not necessarily just nurses, nursing aides or other employees. Owners and administrators unfortunately perpetrate crimes against patients ranging from physical or sexual abuse to theft and financial exploitation. One can only hope that, if found guilty and convicted, the accused owner will be properly punished, and that all nursing home employees from custodians to owners and everyone in between know that this behavior is unacceptable, criminal, and that families are becoming increasingly attuned to such possibilities and proactively taking steps to hold offenders accountable.
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