For Pennsylvania families who have made the decision to seek residential care for a loved one, one of the hardest things to come to terms with is the lack of control that the family has over the daily life of their elder relative. Moving into a residential care facility involves a kind of “changing of the guard” when it comes to looking after a loved one. The responsibility of ensuring that he or she is safe and properly cared for shifts from the family to the nursing home staff. When nursing home abuse occurs, that trust is violated, and the result is outrage on the part of the victim's family members.
An example lies in a recent incident in which sexual abuse allegedly went unreported by nursing home staff who witnessed multiple incidents regarding the same male resident. The facility has a special ward that houses patients suffering from dementia, and the alleged victims and the perpetrator in this case all suffer from dementia. The male perpetrator is purportedly known by staff to have a predilection for fondling female residents.
Staff members witnessed the man fondling the breasts of one patient. He was also seen pulling the hand of another patient to his crotch. During another incident, a housekeeper witnessed the same man at the bedside of a patient who was almost fully incapacitated. The man had his pants down and used the woman's hand to fondle his genitals. That patient was eventually able to relay to staff members that the contact was not consensual; however, this information came only after the man was observed on multiple occasions trying to gain access to her room.
The nursing home abuse was eventually reported, but it appears as though multiple members of the staff were aware of the problem for a considerable period of time. The matter was investigated at both the state and federal levels. The result of the investigation was an order to create written policies for recognizing and responding to sexual conduct between residents, as well as a fine of $6,300, which is less than the cost of one month's stay at the facility. It is unknown whether the victim's family will pursue legal action in the matter. For Pennsylvania families who have placed loved ones into residential care, the story illustrates the importance of remaining vigilant about checking on their condition and treatment.