Nursing home abuse and neglect can take many forms, including the familiar types of wrongdoing
such as physical and emotional abuse, neglecting basic needs, and financial
exploitation. While families may be generally aware of these issues when
choosing an assisted care facility for their elderly loved one, few give
a second thought to another more sinister and inexcusable type of abuse:
While the inability or unwillingness of the elderly to speak out about
sexual assault makes it inherently difficult to determine the true number
of sexual abuse victims in American nursing homes, a recent investigative
analysis by CNN has found that the issue is more common than most would
believe, and that the procedures in place that should protect victims
often fail to do so.
At Shrager, Spivey & Sachs, our Philadelphia nursing home abuse attorneys
have extensive experience representing elderly victims and their loved
ones after they were harmed by substandard care, negligence, and abuse
at nursing homes – and we have recovered millions of dollars in
compensation on their behalves. Having worked many of these cases, we
understand the difficulties of identifying abuse, as well as the challenges
of holding nursing home facilities and staff accountable.
According to CNN, the difficulty of identifying sexual abuse in nursing
homes and assisted living facilities can be far more troublesome than
recognizing the signs of other forms of abuse. Additionally, when allegations were made by residents,
nursing homes, law enforcement, and even government officials often failed
to thoroughly investigate and address issues.
In an analysis of statistics compiled by state and federal agencies, and
interviews with leading experts, regulators, and families, CNN found some
- One of the greatest difficulties in identifying sexual abuse in nursing
homes is that elderly residents may be unable or unwilling to properly
alert staff or family members about the abuse. This is true of cases where
facilities may have tried to protect victims, only to discover that residents
were unable to remember events, identify the assailant, or provide critical
details due to age or more serious neurological degenerative diseases.
In many cases, facilities were quick to dismiss accusations.
- In many of the cases reviewed by CNN, nursing home facilities were commonly
slow to investigate allegations, either because they were reluctant to
believe such allegations or because they wished to conceal them. Some
also failed to identify patterns and alert residents and family members.
- Law enforcement officers who were notified of abuse were often skeptical
of claims from victims who had poor memory or jumbled allegations. Because
there is a high standard in place for substantiating claims of abuse,
government regulators also failed to flag allegations, including multiple
allegations against a single care provider.
- While there are numerous stories and cases of sexual abuse in nursing care
facilities, there are no nationally compiled data as to how many cases
are reported or even substantiated. Statistics on the state level also
fall short and often vary widely from state to state. In many states across
the country, sexual abuse is not distinctly categorized from other forms of abuse.
- While federal data from the Administration for Community Living shows over
16,000 reports of nursing home sexual abuse since 2000, officials state
these statistics fail to capture the full picture and record all reports
and cases. Federal data also fails to highlight when nursing facilities
are cited for improperly handling sexual allegations – from failures
in investigation to willful attempts to conceal and hide abuse.
You can read more about the CNN investigation
The vulnerable state of elderly victims, the nature of claims, and the
systemic failures of those in charge make it exceedingly difficult for
victims to secure justice and for offenders to be held accountable criminally
and civilly for their wrongdoing and for betraying the trust of those
who believed they or their loved ones would be kept safe. While raising
awareness about the issues may help nursing home residents and families
better respond to suspicions to allegations, the procedures in place are
still designed to fail.
Because sexual abuse cases are challenging, working with an experienced
nursing home abuse lawyer can help ensure victims and families have the
guidance and resources required to conduct independent investigations,
as well as the voice needed to bring these abuses to light in court.
At Shrager, Spivey & Sachs, our legal team is passionate about providing
the bold and unwavering voice victims and families need when they bring
their claims forward in the civil justice system. If you have questions
about sexual abuse or any other type of abuse or neglect in a nursing home,
contact us today for a free consultation.