Nursing home sexual abuse is a serious concern and unfortunately it is also a concern that is often ignored. A cross-check of state sexual offender websites completed by a local Florida news team found that about 80 sex offenders were living in Florida nursing homes last year. An investigative journalist found that in many cases, it was unknown to other residents and their families at these facilities that a sexual offender was present.
While parents are often careful to check state databases to locate sexual offenders and are even often willing to take group action to prevent court-ordered sexual offenders from moving into neighborhoods with children, the same precautions are generally not taken with nursing home residents. It is unfortunate, because nursing home residents are also very vulnerable.
Nursing home residents often feel as though they have no choice but to live with the other residents of their nursing home. If there is a sexual predator in the nursing home, it is often difficult for residents to escape. Some nursing home residents feel ashamed or embarrassed to report sexual abuse and in many nursing homes patients have unlimited access to each other resident’s rooms, essentially allowing predators free rein. In some cases, nursing home residents are disabled or otherwise not able to protect themselves. This makes them especially vulnerable to nursing home and elder abuse. As well, the elderly can be severely physically injured in a sexual assault. Sexual assault can lead to broken bones, head injuries, and other serious injuries.
Families can ensure their loved ones are safe in a number of ways. Checking sexual offender databases is one way to ensure that your loved one will not be residing with sexual offenders. It is also important to discuss dangerous residents with owners and administrators of any home you consider. All nursing homes will claim that they look after their residents, but look for a written policy regarding sexual offenders. Will the nursing home disclose the sexual offender status of its residents? Does the facility only accept sexual offender residents who cannot self-propel? Has the facility had any violent or criminal incidents? You may need to hire an investigator for a background check to get these answers. However, it can be well worth it to keep a loved one safe.
There are other things that families can do to help protect their loved ones in nursing homes. Some families have bound together to seek new legislation and new rules. Some families want more transparency about where sexual predators are located. Others want separate housing for aging felons to ensure that predators are not housed with elderly loved ones. You can join such a movement or write to your governor asking for changes to be made.
If you have an elderly loved one in a nursing home, it is important to maintain frequent contact. Regular visits can help you notice any sudden changes – such as withdrawal or depression – that may signal abuse or illness. Any physical symptoms – such as bruises or injuries – need to be carefully investigated. In many cases, families can notice and prevent further abuse with simple observation.