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Preventing Sexual Abuse in California Nursing Homes

As San Diego elder abuse attorneys, we are troubled by a recent report about the frequency of sexual abuse in nursing homes. Seniors are one of the most vulnerable groups of individuals and deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.

Sexual Assaults in Nursing Homes

A recent CNN investigative report highlights that sexual assaults in nursing homes are far more common than most would expect. In fact, the news network revealed that more than 1,000 facilities had been cited for “somehow mishandling or failing to prevent alleged cases of sexual assault at their facilities in recent years.”

In one case detailed by CNN, an 88-year-old California woman who'd only had sex with one man her entire life — her husband of nearly 70 years — was assaulted by a male nurse. She awoke in bed with her catheter removed, and the next thing she remembered was seeing an unknown male nursing assistant staring at her naked body. She told police he stated, “This is why I love my job.” After complaining of severe vaginal pain, she was later diagnosed with incurable genital herpes.

While some abusers face criminal charges, many cases of sexual abuse in nursing homes go unreported. “Despite the litany of abuses detailed in government reports, there is no comprehensive, national data on how many cases of sexual abuse have been reported in facilities housing the elderly,” the report noted.

The CNN investigation also highlighted that nursing homes often fail to take steps to address elder abuse, even after multiple reports. “In cases reviewed by CNN, victims and their families were failed at every stage. Nursing homes were slow to investigate and report allegations because of a reluctance to believe the accusations — or a desire to hide them,” the report stated. “And because of the high bar set for substantiating abuse, state regulators failed to flag patterns of repeated allegations against a single caregiver.”

Pursuing an Elder Abuse Lawsuit

When nursing home residents are neglected or otherwise mistreated, they may be entitled to compensation. While many elder abuse victims are leery of taking legal action, it is often the only way to remedy the underlying problem and prevent further mistreatment. Victims and their families should understand that the statute of limitations mandates that California elder abuse suits are filed within two years of the intentional or negligent act.

If the elder abuse victim passes away, the executor or administrator of the decedent’s estate can pursue a lawsuit on behalf of the victim. In most wrongful death cases, noneconomic damages, such as pain, suffering, and emotional distress suffered during the deceased person’s lifetime, are not available. However, the Elder Abuse and Dependent Adult Civil Protection Act (EADACPA) authorizes the decedent’s estate, in certain circumstances, to pursue noneconomic damages for the injuries suffered by the elder abuse victim prior to his or her death, up to a maximum of $250,000.

If you or someone you love has fallen victim to elder abuse or nursing home negligence, don’t hesitate to contact one of our San Diego elder abuse attorneys at the Law Offices of Robert Vaage for a free consultation.