Vulnerable seniors are sexually abused and raped in nursing homes across America, but many facility administrators do little, or nothing, to stop it.
Sexual Assaults are Often Mishandled and Unreported
Over two million cases of elder abuse are reported every year in the U.S. and up to 70 percent of nursing home facilities mishandle the reports to authorities. According to a study done by the Special Investigations Division of the House Government Reform Committee, one out of every three nursing homes in the U.S. has received violations for nursing home abuse, and the majority of violations are linked to sexual misconduct or sexual assault and rape. The study shows that approximately 70 percent of female nursing home residents over the age of 60 have been sexually assaulted.
Sexual abuse of residents in nursing homes, assisted-living centers, and long-term care facilities is a largely hidden problem nationwide. It’s hidden behind failed reporting systems and business incentives that drive facility owners and administrators to conceal the abuse. It’s often overlooked by nursing home staff and even family members who don’t believe the victims. Many nursing home residents have physical and mental impairments and have trouble communicating information about abuse. Residents with cognitive impairments often become easy prey for sexual assaults and rape. About 80 percent of the time, the perpetrator is the person’s caregiver who knows that the victim will likely not remember the incident or be able to report it.
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All nursing home facilities have a responsibility to protect residents from harm and report nursing home abuse to the proper authorities. Under state laws and the Social Security Act, all federally-funded nursing homes are required to report all suspected or alleged incidents of abuse. Skilled nursing home facilities must ensure that all allegations of physical and mental abuse, misconduct, mistreatment, neglect, and injuries are investigated and reported to the facility administrator within five days. Reports must then be submitted to the CMS Survey Agency, as well as one law enforcement agency within the jurisdiction where the facility is located.
Failure to report suspected or alleged incidents of abuse is can result in civil penalties of up to $300,000 and lose the right to participate in any federally-funded health care program. To prevent resident abuse in federally-funded nursing homes, 49 states have Medicaid Fraud Control Units with teams of investigators and attorneys who investigate abuse allegations and prosecute guilty perpetrators.