At the end of June, reports emerged of a particularly heinous act committed at a nursing home in the state Washington. We are unfortunately all too used to seeing incidents of physical, mental and emotional abuse of nursing home residents across the country. Some residents find themselves ignored in spite of the need to be properly fed, nourished, hydrated, and bathed. This can lead to malnourishment, dehydration, and unsanitary living conditions in which they can develop bed sores or other conditions, which can then worsen into sepsis or other infections. Unfortunately we also see nurses and nursing aides and other staffers resort to physical abuse when they become impatient with a resident, or simply out of pure cruelty.
On top of these common incidents, however, is something exceptionally heinous: sexual abuse and exploitation of nursing home residents. Generally, residents are in these facilities because they suffer from some physical debilitation, mental debilitation, or both. This makes them incredibly vulnerable to abuse and neglect, even more so when they are incapable of reporting it or communicating it to others are the facility or family members. Residents suffering from dementia are sometimes unable to communicate the abuse they suffer, and it continues on or the offender is never brought to justice. Furthermore, this abuse may not only occur at the hands of staff – it can also be at the hands of fellow residents, which puts a tremendous onus on facility staff to properly observe, monitor, and intervene to protect victims or possible victims.
Sexual abuse in Washington
In the state of Washington, at the Cashmere Convalescent Center, a patient has allegedly sexually abused multiple fellow patients in the facility’s dementia ward. As one might imagine, those suffering with dementia are particularly vulnerable to different types of abuse. In local reports, one particular account describes a patient who could not get out of bed and could “barely speak,” making it difficult to report the abuse. This particular victim was incredibly distraught, as was her family, and unfortunately she subsequently passed away. Another reported incident included sexual abuse against another patient in the dementia ward as well. There may have been other victims.
Cover-up by Staff
A lawsuit brought against the facility claims that staffers at the nursing home did not properly address the abuse or try to prevent further abuse. One particularly disturbing element reported is that the nursing supervisor is alleged to have told state investigators that nothing could be done, and another report indicates the staffer thought it may have simply been consensual. Thus not only did staff not catch this initially to stop it, but did not proactively react to prevent it any further. They did not report it to appropriate authorities or even notify families, either. This was a total derogation of mandatory reporting requirements.
The Nursing Home Administrators board is currently investigating the matter. The federal government, which has jurisdiction over nursing homes when they receive federal dollars through Medicare and Medicaid insurance programs, has reportedly sanctioned the facility with a $6,000 fine. The state of Washington has reportedly only ordered the facility to rewrite policies and provide new training for nurses. One might question the extent of these sanctions and the arguably minimal punitive action taken against the nursing home and against the relevant staffers.
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