It’s the last thing we want to think about when considering loved ones in nursing homes. The possibility that your elderly relative could be living among a convicted sex offender is disheartening and extremely frightening, but it does happen, all across the U.S. In order to prevent an attack or assault, the nursing home negligence attorneys at Pintas & Mullins highlight a few tips for families concerned about their loved ones safety.
Regulation of nursing homes in the U.S. varies from state to state. In Ohio, for example, there is a
legislative loophole that does not require residents of nursing homes to be notified if or when a convicted sex offender gains admission as a resident. Current Ohio law requires only that sex offenders notify their neighbors when they move into a new neighborhood, however this does not apply if the offender is moving into the same address as other people.
Experts assert that 75% of sexual crimes against older adults (65+) occur in nursing homes. The news stories proliferate throughout the country – elderly women, more often than not ridden with dementia or Alzheimer’s, being harassed or assaulted at the hands of other residents, and suffering dire consequences as a result. Due to their cognitive conditions, these victims may then be unable to sufficiently recount the incident to nursing home staff, police or family members, so the cycle of abuse continues.
Sexual offenders and criminals of all kind prey on people they believe to be most vulnerable, and the elderly living in nursing homes are among our nation’s most vulnerable population.
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It is critical that nursing home staff be aware if or when a convicted sexual offender enters a nursing home, whether as a visitor, employee or resident. Nursing aides typically spend the most time with residents helping with everyday activities. If staff, and particularly nursing aides, were made aware of the presence of a sex offender, they could take the necessary steps to prevent and incidents from occurring. This does not have to be any type of major intervention, but could be very subtle, like merely keeping a closer eye on the dangerous resident.
Families of loved ones can help by contacting state and local governments to change or draft laws that would require such notification. In Ohio, Representative Tom Letson is now co-sponsoring a bill that would amend current laws and fix the above-mentioned loophole. The new bill would allow residents of long-term care facilities to be notified when sex offenders are admitted.
Despite the critical nature of their care, nursing homes are not always known to fully and willingly comply with the law. Recently in Calgary, Canada, for example, an investigation found that a nursing home failed to inform authorities after several residents were sexually assaulted, even though such notification is required by law.
In this case, one of the male residents repeatedly assaulted women residing in the McKenzie Towne Care Centre’s dementia unit.
Reports indicate that management had been aware of the ongoing abuse since June 2005 and allowed it to escalate over the proceeding six months. Eventually, only after the son of a victim saw the abuse first-hand, complaints were made to the Canadian government.
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At least five separate incidents were submitted to the nursing home staff, and caregivers told local reporters that they tried to personally deter the man from his behavior. Like most for-profit nursing homes in the U.S., however, Canadian facilities are substantially understaffed, and the shortages caused insufficient supervision to prevent further incidents.
The elder law attorneys at Pintas & Mullins offer free legal consultations to anyone with questions related to mistreatment in nursing homes. If you or a loved one was seriously injured while receiving care at a long-term nursing facility, contact our firm immediately. We take clients from all 50 states, and have our own team of investigators who can help you get to the bottom of what happened and why.