No one in Georgia should ever have to worry about his or her loved one not being properly cared for in a nursing home, assisted living or rehabilitation facility. As family members and loved ones age, we sometimes have to rely on someone else to care for them. We trust that these facilities, which we depend on to help our most vulnerable citizens, are treating them with the utmost attention and respect. Unfortunately, because the residents at these facilities are usually frail, elderly and/or disabled, it is sometimes easy to get away with abusing or mistreating them.
The most common types of nursing home mistreatment or abuse cases involve:
- Physical Abuse
- Financial Abuse
The lesser-known abuse that no-one wants to talk about is sexual abuse and rape. According to a recent CNN investigation, more than 1,000 nursing homes have been cited for mishandling suspected cases of sexual abuse.
Sexual abuse can be difficult to investigate. Patients who become victims are easy prey. Many have failing memories, which makes it difficult for them to remember exactly what happened when asked to testify, or identify who raped or abused them. Typically, the patients who are targeted are:
- Physically disabled older residents – they can't walk, talk, or fight back
- Cognitively impaired residents– they have dementia, Alzheimer's, or other memory issues
- Physically impaired younger residents – they may be paralyzed, or have other neurological diseases such as Multiple Sclerosis or Lou Gehrig's disease
There are ways to reduce the likelihood that these types of abuses will happen. Facilities should:
- Train employees to spot signs of sexual abuse (patient becomes withdrawn, doesn't want to eat, is fearful of a certain employee, or doesn't want a certain employee helping them);
- Do thorough background checks of employees; and
- Adequately staff the facility (the more employees working, the harder it is to sexually abuse a patient without being noticed).
Ways in which a nursing home may be found liable for the mistreatment or sexual abuse of its patients include:
- Traditional Negligence – The nursing home failed to protect the resident from a foreseeable harm, such as when an employee is suspected of abusing patients but nothing is done to protect the patients;
- Negligent Hiring and Supervision – the nursing home hired an employee who was not qualified or had red flags in his/her past employment or background;
- Vicarious Liability (also called Respondeat Superior) – holds the employer liable for the wrong acts committed by the employee.
If you are considering a nursing home for your aging loved one, you can look up the name of the facility at the Nursing Home Compare page of Medicare.gov to see if it has been cited for sexual abuse or other issues in the past three years. Select up to three nursing homes to compare, choose each of those facilities health inspection results, then read the details in the full report.
Gautreaux Law is a personal injury law firm that handles nursing home cases in Macon, all of Middle Georgia, Atlanta, and across the state of Georgia. If your loved one has been injured in a nursing home, assisted living or rehabilitation facility, call our office at 478-238-9758 or toll free at 888-876-6935 for a no obligation, free consultation.