We have previously blogged about the unfortunate frequency of sexual assault in nursing homes or skilled nursing facilities. Sadly, this week a news story has grabbed headlines that highlights this problem. A woman who has been in a vegetative state since she was three years old has recently gave birth in late December of 2018. Given her condition, it is impossible for her to have consented to sexual activity.
Investigators ran DNA tests on the people working at the nursing home and found a match with a male licensed practical nurse who cared for the impregnated woman. The thirty-six year old man has been arrested and charged with sexual assault. That man has worked at the nursing home since 2011. Police are uncertain at this time if there are other victims.
Police are also investigating whether the facility was aware of the assault. The chief executive officer of the company that operated the nursing home has resigned. In addition, one of the doctors that cared for the woman has resigned, and another doctor has been suspended.
The concerns involving the nursing home are not limited to the sexual assault itself as the nursing home was not even aware that the twenty-nine year old woman was pregnant until she unexpectedly gave birth. This raises a host of concerns regarding how closely her health and conditions were being monitored.
Here in Jacksonville, the recent rape of a nursing home resident also made headlines. No arrests have been made in that case and it is uncertain whether the perpetrator worked in the nursing home or entered posing as a visitor.
Residents of Florida nursing homes have, according to both common sense and Florida’s Nursing Home Resident’s Bill of Rights, the right to a safe environment. More specifically, the Bill of Rights provides, in part: “Every resident of a facility shall have the right to: Live in a safe and decent living environment, free from abuse and neglect.”
Obviously, sexual assault is a violation of this right and nursing homes must take sufficient preventative measures. First, every employee must be screened for any prior arrests or convictions. Their prior employers must be consulted to make sure there were no concerns regarding the individual’s work history. while the employee is working at the nursing home, all complaints of inappropriate behavior must be taken very seriously even if the victim is not certain of details as many nursing home residents suffer from cognitive impairment. This is one reason why such perpetrators prey on the elderly.
These background investigations must also be performed for contract workers and independent contractors who do not work directly for the nursing home, but are nevertheless brought in to provide care. Nursing homes commonly employ nurses and nurse assistants from agencies if the nursing home is short on staff. Due to the high level of employee turnover in Florida nursing homes, staffing agencies are commonly used to fill in gaps to meet statutorily mandated staffing levels.
In addition, nursing homes must not allow persons to enter the facility who have no business being there. All points of entry must be conspicuously videotaped. In this manner, potential assailants are made aware that evidence of their entry has been recorded.
Furthermore, resident on resident sexual assaults can occur in nursing homes. For this reason, it is necessary that nursing homes be aware of the criminal past of residents before admission and must respond appropriately to any occurrences of sexual or aggressive misbehavior. Finally, the nursing staff must monitor residents frequently so that a perpetrator does not have the time necessary to commit a sexual assault without being detected. Continue reading