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Recognize the Signs of Elderly Sexual Abuse

nursing home abuse

The decision to place a loved one into a nursing home is a tough one.  Most individuals will take  time researching nursing homes, hoping to find a place where the residents are respected, competently cared for, and safe.  You want to find somewhere that is clean and well-staffed with professionals who will properly care for your loved one.  But, have you ever considered elderly abuse?  You should.  The National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) reports that 7.6%-10% of study participants experienced abuse in the previous year.  While the types of abuse range from physical to financial, the purpose of this blog is to focus on sexual abuse. Sexual abuse accounts for approximately 7% of all abuse complaints in nursing homes in the United States. The NCEA defines elder sexual abuse as “non-consensual sexual contact of any kind with an elderly person” or “sexual contact with any person incapable of giving consent.”  This abuse can include physical sex acts but also activities like showing pornographic material to an elderly person, forcing a person to watch sex acts, or forcing the elder to undress.  The best way to confront the fear that these alarming statistics/facts elicit is to be armed with the knowledge and information needed to prevent this from happening to your loved one.

POTENTIAL ABUSERS:

Perpetrators of abuse can include caregivers, other residents, strangers, and family members.  Abusers will often choose victims who have difficulty communicating due to disability, memory loss, confusion, or fear of retaliation.  Many victims worry they will not receive food, medications, or other necessities if they choose to speak out about their abuse. Others choose not to report because they do not want to get their family member in trouble.  Still others remain silent because they are ashamed of what has occurred.

RISK FACTORS:

  • Abuse is greater in facilities with higher percentages of residents with dementia
  • Facilities with low staff ratios tend to have higher rates of abuse
  • Residents are at higher risk in facilities that lack an abuse prevention policy
  • Facilities with a history of abuse and non-compliance are more likely to have future incidents
  • Women are the overwhelming majority of victims

PHYSICAL SIGNS OF SEXUAL ABUSE:

  • Unexplained blood on clothes, bed sheets, and linens
  • Bleeding/bruising in genital areas
  • Bloody, ripped, or stained undergarments
  • Bruising and/or handprints near inner thighs, breasts, and buttocks
  • New and unexplained pain when seated or walking
  • STD and/or infection in genital area

BEHAVIORAL SIGNS OF SEXUAL ABUSE:

  • Unusual fear or anxiety, particularly when a specific person is nearby
  • Depression, withdrawal, refusal to communicate
  • Suicide attempts
  • Psychosomatic complaints: Men will most often complain of stomachaches, while women tend to complain of headaches
  • Changes in the way the individual shows affection, especially when this behavior is a sudden change or deviates from typical behavior. One example is a new fear of being touched
  • Changes in sleep patterns, including nightmares or difficulty sleeping

STEPS TO TAKE IF YOU SUSPECT ABUSE:

If you suspect that your loved one may be a victim of sexual abuse, speak to them about your concerns.  You should contact the proper authorities (police, medical professionals) immediately.  Contact an attorney who specializes in elderly abuse cases. The attorneys at Olsman, Mueller, Wallace & Mackenzie specialize in cases of nursing home abuse and neglect.  Contact them today at 1-800-366-8653 for a free consultation.

Michigan Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect