Articles Posted in Sexual Abuse in Nursing Homes

While nursing home abuse has steadily increased over the last two decades, sexual abuse in nursing homes goes underreported. Like sexual abuse in other settings, Maryland nursing home residents experiencing sexual abuse may be reluctant to report the conduct for fear that others won’t believe them or that they will face retribution. Although other forms of abuse outnumber sexual abuse at nursing homes, these instances can be severely psychologically and physically damaging to the resident and their family members.

The physical signs of sexual abuse are not as apparent to friends and families compared to other forms of abuse and neglect. However, sexual abuse can result in serious emotional, physical, and psychological trauma. Any unwanted romantic or sexual conduct may amount to sexual abuse. Vulnerable individuals residing in these facilities may not be able to consent or defend against these instances effectively.

Many people may perpetrate these crimes against residents in nursing homes. The most likely abusers are staff members such as aides and nurses, fellow residents, and even visitors. Nursing home staff have the most access to the residents and are most knowledgeable about the victim’s ability to communicate what is happening to them. Other common perpetrators are facility residents. This often occurs when the resident suffers a psychiatric disorder or a history of sexual abuse. Finally, visitors, including family members and those on-site for another reason, may sexually abuse residents. Nursing home administrators should take steps to ensure their residents receive protection from those who may have the propensity to abuse others.

Maryland’s nursing home residents are some of the state’s most vulnerable people. Many families place a loved one in a nursing home when they are no longer able to care for themselves, are aging or disabled, and need regular assistance with daily life activities. When families decide to place a loved one in this type of care, they almost always believe they are doing the best thing for their loved one’s health and well being. That is one of the reasons why nursing home abuse and neglect can be so devastating—families who just wanted to protect their loved ones feel betrayed and shocked to discover that they were facing harm in their nursing home. Particularly traumatic are occurrences of sexual abuse in nursing homes. But, unfortunately, such abuse does occur, in Maryland and across the country.

Sometimes, this abuse is perpetrated by a staff member or caretaker employed by the nursing home to take care of residents. In these cases, Maryland families should remember that they usually have the option of filing a lawsuit against both the staff member and the nursing home. But sometimes, the abuse occurs within the nursing home but not by someone employed by the nursing home—another resident, for example. Recently, this issue came up in a New York nursing home. According to a local news report, state officials cited the home for failing to report instances of sexual abuse. The nursing home discovered that at least three residents were sexually abused by another resident, some on multiple occasions, but did not report these crimes.

While holding the nursing home liable in this case may appear more complicated, since no one employed by the home actually perpetrated the abuse, this case illustrates the important potential for holding nursing homes responsible for being negligent and neglecting to take certain actions. Here, Maryland state law may allow a cause of action for the abused victims (or their families, suing on their behalf) to hold the nursing home accountable for negligence in allowing the abuse to happen multiple times and for their failure to report the crimes or take further preventative action.

When someone sends a family member to live in a Maryland nursing home, they trust that the facility and individual staff members will keep their loved one safe. However, incidents of assault in nursing homes contribute to a significant portion of claims of nursing home abuse in Maryland, and staff members who cause these harms should be held accountable for their actions. Maryland caregivers who work closely with seniors should never exploit their position or access to residents for personal reasons.

According to a recent news report, a former nursing assistant was sentenced to a year in prison after pleading guilty to charges related to abusing seniors in a nursing home. The investigation revealed that the staff member had inappropriately touched several residents in an assisted living center, and was facing multiple charges, including second-degree rape of a frail, elderly, or vulnerable individual, and two counts of fourth-degree assault with sexual motivation.

Although officials believe that there were likely other victims in the nursing home, the perpetrator was only charged with the assault of four seniors because the others had either passed away or were no longer able to provide statements, due to their age and condition. In addition to prison time, the staff member was fired from his job and had his nursing assistant license revoked. He will also serve 18 months of community custody, will be required to obtain a sexual deviancy evaluation, and is barred from having any contact from individuals in similar care facilities or nursing homes.

Sexual assault and abuse incidents are always tragedies but can be of increasing concern when the victims are particularly vulnerable, weak, or unable to communicate what is happening to them. Unfortunately, this is the case for many victims of sexual abuse in Maryland nursing homes and hospitals. Although nursing homes and hospitals are supposed to take care of their residents and keep them safe, staff in these facilities may take advantage of residents sexually. In fact, a 2017 report found that more than 1,000 nursing homes across the country had been cited for failing to prevent sex abuse at their facilities, or for mishandling the reports.

The problem can, of course, affect the elderly who are spending their final days in a nursing home and require continual care. But a recent news report details that sexual abuse can occur to patients of all ages, including those who are young but significantly disabled or weakened. According to the report, there have been instances of sexual abuse in hospitals and nursing homes across the nation, with victims ranging in age. One 61-year-old woman, unable to speak from a tube in her throat, eventually communicated to her daughters that she had been abused by an EKG technician. Another victim, 29 years old and severely disabled, was found to have been sexually abused by one of her nurses.

Anytime an individual is sexually abused, Maryland law allows them to bring a civil suit both against the perpetrator and against a larger responsible party. When the abuse happens in a nursing home or a hospital, the victim or their loved ones can bring a civil suit against the institution for failing to take adequate steps to protect against sexual abuse. These institutions have a duty to take reasonable steps to ensure their residents are protected, but many still fail to handle complaints in a timely manner or investigate allegations. In order to prevail in a civil suit against one of these institutions, a victim or their loved one must prove to the court that the defendant had a duty to protect the victim, that they either did something or failed to do something that breached that duty, that their breach directly caused the victim’s injuries, and that the victim suffered actual injuries. While this process seems straightforward, the intricacies of the law can at times be confusing to victims and their families, particularly if they are still dealing with the aftermath of abuse. Potential plaintiffs are advised to consult with attorneys with experience in this area of law, who can take the case off their hands so they can focus on healing.

Although it may be difficult to comprehend, nursing home abuse is more common than most people think. In fact, thousands of nursing home residents report abuse or neglect each year. Many of these victims turn to the court system for justice. As experienced Maryland nursing home abuse attorneys, one of the most common questions we receive is, under what circumstances can a nursing home be held liable for an employee’s conduct?

A recent decision issued by a Virginia appellate court considers this exact question. According to the court’s opinion, a nursing assistant molested and raped an 85-year old nursing home resident. Before the case reached trial, the woman died from unrelated causes. However, the woman’s estate pursued a Virginia nursing home abuse case against the facility where the rape occurred.

The estate made several claims against the nursing home, including one that the nursing home was vicariously liable for the employee’s actions. Vicarious liability is a legal theory that allows for one party to be held responsible for another party’s actions. Personal injury plaintiffs often use the theory of vicarious liability to hold an at-fault party’s employer liable for their injuries. However, vicarious liability only applies when the defendant is acting within the scope of their employment.

When someone is admitted to a Maryland nursing home or care facility, it is typically because they cannot perform the necessary daily tasks to lead a normal life. In many – but not all – cases, younger residents suffer from severe intellectual disabilities that render them incapable of providing consent for sexual intercourse. However, there have recently been reports of pregnancy among nursing home residents.

Last December, a nurse at an Arizona nursing home called the police in a panic when a resident unexpectedly gave birth. Apparently, this was the first time anyone at the nursing home knew that the woman, who was non-verbal due to a near-drowning accident, was pregnant. As it turns out, the pregnancy was the result of the resident being raped while at the nursing home.

One of the many questions this tragic situation raises is, how could the nursing home fail to notice that the resident was pregnant? The woman’s family wonders the same thing, and has filed a claim against the State of Arizona based on the state’s failure to provide sufficient oversight.

When a Maryland nursing home employee is subject to neglect or abuse, the local prosecuting authority has the discretion whether to pursue criminal charges against the accused. Typically, if criminal charges are filed, the victim of the abuse or neglect will wait until the resolution of the criminal case to pursue a civil claim for damages. If the accused is found guilty at a criminal trial, this may help the victim obtain a judgment against their abuser.

While a criminal conviction may make it easier for the victim of nursing home abuse or neglect to recover for their injuries in a personal injury lawsuit, it is important that Maryland nursing home residents and their families know that there is no requirement that the accused is found guilty – or even charged – with a criminal offense. This is due to the different standards of proof in civil and criminal cases.

To be found guilty of a criminal offense, a jury must establish that the accused is guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt.” This is a very high standard. However, in a civil claim against a Maryland nursing home, the plaintiff need only prove that the defendant was liable by a “preponderance of the evidence.” Most jurists understand this standard to mean that it was “more likely than not” that the defendant is liable under the plaintiff’s theory.

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Reports of neglect and abuse are common in nursing homes and skilled care facilities. However, the exact number of Maryland nursing home residents who are neglected or forced to endure physical or sexual abuse is difficult to determine. One reason for this is because many nursing home residents have a very difficult time successfully reporting abuse or neglect.

There are several reasons why a nursing home resident may have a difficult time successfully reporting abuse or neglect. For example, some residents may be ashamed of what they have experienced or fear that their reports or abuse or neglect will be met with skepticism from loved ones. However, the more common reason for a resident’s failure to report nursing home abuse or neglect is their inability to do so.

Those who are inclined to prey upon the aged or disabled often select the most vulnerable individuals of this population as victims. Predators do this knowing that their victims will likely be unable to report what has been done to them and, even if it is reported, the reports may not be taken seriously.

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While sexual assault has always been a concern among those who have family members living in Maryland nursing homes, given the recent headlines those concerns have come to the forefront. Back in December of last year, a 29-year-old resident in a long-term care facility gave birth to a baby boy. The woman had been incapacitated and in long-term care since she was three years old.

According to a recent news report, police have arrested a man they believe raped the woman. After the resident gave birth, police obtained a DNA sample from the baby. Police then obtained DNA samples from each of the nurses at the care facility where the resident was staying. Evidently, the DNA taken from the baby matched one of the nurses who was charged with overseeing the resident. The nurse had been working at the facility since 2011, and there is no indication at this point that there had been any previous complaints or similar incidents. Of course, given the compromised condition of the residents in the facility, it is likely that other incidents would not necessarily be reported.

Signs of Sexual Assault

Certainly, this news comes as a shock to many. However, sexual abuse is not uncommon in nursing homes and skilled care facilities. One reason for this is the compromised condition of the residents make them ideal victims for predators. In addition, many nursing home residents have little contact with those outside of the facility, and fear that they may not be believed if they did make a report.

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In a shocking case that sounds as an alarm to families of Maryland nursing home residents as well as those throughout the country, police are investigating after a nursing home resident in a vegetative state gave birth on December 29 in Arizona. According to a recent news report, the woman was 29 years old and had been in a vegetative state and coma for over a decade after she had almost drowned, according to a news source. Staff at the facility reportedly did not realize the patient was pregnant until she went into labor.

Evidently, the company’s CEO resigned after heading the company for 28 years and police opened an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the pregnancy. The facility specializes in caring for individuals with intellectual disabilities. According to the Medicare website, the facility received a “below average” rating from health inspectors in 2017. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services also gave the facility’s quality of care a rating of “much below average.”

The state’s Department of Health Services stated that it would conduct an inspection of the facility after the incident. Another incident at the facility was reported in 2013. At that time, a male staff member made sexually explicit remarks to patients, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services. Phoenix police are now conducting an investigation and collecting DNA from all male staff members at the facility. The family’s attorney stated that the family is “outraged, traumatized, and in shock by the abuse and neglect of their daughter” at the facility. The attorney also said that the baby was “born into a loving family and will be well cared for.”

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