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Sexual abuse in nursing homes: What to know

When you trust an elderly loved one’s care to a residential facility, the last worry on your mind might be the possibility of sexual abuse – but it happens.

Nobody has a clear idea of how many nursing home residents actually suffer unwanted sexual contact, largely because sexual abuse among the elderly often goes underreported (and possibly unnoticed).

Almost anybody can be an abuser

Nursing home residents are uniquely vulnerable to sexual assault because sexual assault is all about power and control – and it is very easy to exert both over people who are physically frail and/or suffering from cognitive disorders that prevent them from communicating well with others.

Sexual abuse can be perpetrated by a member of the resident’s own family, their roommate, a staff member, nurses, doctors and (especially) other patients. In fact, dementia-driven resident-to-resident sexual aggression is known to be the most prevalent type of sexual violence in nursing homes, but many nursing homes fail to do anything to protect their most defenseless patients. 

For example, one nursing home was ultimately fined for failing to implement policies to curb sexual abuses and failing to even investigate alleged incidents (much less report them), even though staff members had nicknamed one resident “Captain McFeelypants” because of his aggressive sexual behavior toward others.

If you believe that your loved one may have been the victim of sexual abuse in their nursing home, you cannot count on the facility’s administration to act. Seeking legal guidance is the best way to protect your loved one from further harm.