Millions of American families rely on nursing homes, assisted-living facilities and long-term clinics to care for elder relatives no longer able to manage their own medication and daily needs. One of the main concerns we have for these residents is isolation and loneliness. Regrettably, that is not the only concern.
A recent investigation into Illinois and Missouri nursing home resident and staff lists showed an ominous possibly of underreported sexual abuse. Many cases are not reported at all, leading observers to estimate that as many as one in five long-term residents has been subject to sexual abuse.
Residents who are themselves past perpetrators of sexual abuse are also clustered at several nursing homes. Nearly 100 were identified by the investigation, which claimed some homes had multiple past offenders. One health system with 25 nursing homes serves around 70 past sex offenders as residents.
Patients who are nonverbal due to dementia, Alzheimer’s Disease and related health issues may not be able to report their own abuse or, in some cases, may not be conscious of it. It is often up to vigilant staff members, fellow residents and family members to spot the signs of abuse.
There are ways to research nursing homes, including states’ online registries, but it is unlikely that people can be absolutely sure about their relatives’ safety. An attorney may be consulted if nursing home neglect or abuse is suspected. Legal representation can be useful if residents or their relatives feel the need to sue for improved care as well as financial damages for past problems and transgressions.