Sexual abuse in any situation is abhorrent. When an abuser targets a helpless individual in a nursing home, the conduct is especially egregious and it can lead to criminal charges as well as a civil lawsuit for damages. A recent story illustrates how elderly people can be the target of appalling abuse in nursing homes.
Recently, four healthcare workers at a nursing home in New York were fired after it was found that they had sexually humiliated two patients who were prone to mental health problems.
According to a statement released by the Department of Health, two of the workers accused of nursing home abuse put a legally blind male patient (who also suffers from dementia) into a bed with a mildly retarded, schizophrenic female patient. The workers then attempted to trick the man into believing that the woman was his spouse, despite the fact that his real wife was present.
The report states that the workers used "sexually provocative" commentary to incite the patients to touch one another while they recorded the incident using their cell phones. The workers then shared the photos with other employees of the nursing home. When the facility's managers learned of the incident, the workers were fired along with two other employees who witnessed the incident and failed to report it.
The two fired workers who were directly involved in the misconduct received fines of $4,000 each and they are no longer legally allowed to work at other nursing homes. The workers who failed to report the incident received fines of $500 each and they are still legally allowed to find work at other nursing homes.
None of the workers are presently facing criminal charges because the Health Department did not deem their conduct to be at the level of criminal activity. The Health Department also concluded that there was no wrongdoing in how the nursing home reported the incident.
Although the incident may be resolved from the perspective of the health department, the workers who were implicated in the abuse may face further sanctions yet. Victims of nursing home abuse and their families have the right to sue abusers in court and these nursing home workers may be facing a civil lawsuit.
Source: Reuters, "Healthcare workers fired for sexual mistreatment of elderly," Aman Ali, 3/30/2011