When home care for our elderly loved ones simply isn’t possible, or when it becomes too much for families to handle alone, nursing homes are supposed to be there to help protect and care for those who can no longer care for themselves. Sometimes, though, the system that’s designed to protect people in a very vulnerable position breaks down, and physical, verbal, emotional, financial, and even sexual abuse can happen.
Here’s what you should know about sexual abuse in nursing homes, including how to recognize the signs, and how to protect your loved one if you suspect abuse is happening.
Signs of Nursing Home Sexual Abuse
The uncomfortable truth is that, though many nursing homes are safe and welcoming places that care for a vulnerable population in the twilight of their lives, the risk of sexual abuse does still exist. An in-depth report by CNN in 2017 found over 1,000 nursing homes that had received citations for the mishandling of cases where sexual abuse was suspected, and even traced the path of one caregiver accused of serial abuse through employment at multiple facilities.
There are certain signs and symptoms of sexual abuse in a nursing home that should start raising “red flags” for you and your family if you see them. Some of the signs to keep an eye out for may include:
- Unexplained bruising in the breast, genital, or thigh areas
- Sexually transmitted infections or other infections in the genitals
- Itching, bleeding, or pain in the genitals
- Trouble sitting or walking due to painful genital areas
- Torn, bloody, or disarrayed clothing or underwear
- Sudden fear or timidity, or fear of a certain staff member
- Sudden withdrawal or self-isolating behavior
- Aggressive or inappropriate sexual behaviors
If you see signs such as these and suspect that they are caused by sexual abuse, or your loved one has told you that sexual abuse has happened, it is important to get authorities involved as soon as possible. You may contact nursing home administration, but you may wish to go directly to law enforcement yourself. You may call the police, who will contact the South Carolina Department of Social Services (DSS), or you may reach out directly to the DSS Adult Protective Services in your county for help.
Protecting Your Loved One
There are some steps that you can take to protect your elderly family members to ensure that abuse does not happen. Whether your loved one is preparing to enter or is already living in a nursing home, you may ask the administration or management whether there are any policies designed to protect the residents from sexual abuse. Request copies of these policies, and ask how often these policies are updated to stay current with modern law and best practices.
Looking at staffing levels in a nursing home is another way to gauge how well the facility is able to care for and protect residents in general, including protecting them from abuse. Staffing shortages may mean that there is less supervision available, and a rush for new personnel may mean that management may not be doing a thorough job of investigating the backgrounds of those it hires to look for prior offenses or other warning signs that someone should not be involved in elderly care.
Get Legal Help
If you suspect that your loved one is suffering from sexual abuse in a nursing home, an attorney with experience handling nursing home abuse cases will be able to provide you guidance on your legal options, as well as connect you with the proper authorities to start a formal investigation as soon as possible. Though a lawsuit cannot undo the harm that has been done, your attorney can help you and your elderly loved one receive financial compensation for any medical costs related to the assault, as well as emotional damages.
To get legal help for your family, please call the Law Offices of Kenneth E. Berger today. Our professional, caring law team is here to help you protect your loved ones in your time of need. Our offices are located in Columbia, and we proudly serve clients from the Sumter, Florence, and Myrtle Beach areas, as well as the entire state of South Carolina.