Sending your beloved, elderly parent to reside in a nursing home is rarely an easy choice. Rather, it is a decision that can be filled with doubt, guilt, and fear. In some cases, it is a family’s only option. Placing your parent or grandparent in a nursing home requires a massive amount of trust. Sadly, that trust is sometimes broken.
Nursing homes are supposed to be safe, loving places that provide medical care and emotional support for the elderly—and indeed, most of them are. All too often, though, families must face the difficult realization that something harmful has happened to their loved one in one of these facilities.
A recent exposé has revealed widespread elder abuse that many nursing homes tried to cover up and that the state never addressed. The investigation, which took place in Minnesota, raises serious concerns about nursing home residents in North Carolina and around the country. The exposé revealed over 25,000 cases of sexual assault, robbery, neglect, and physical and emotional abuse. Ninety-seven percent of these cases were never investigated.
One particularly shocking incident involved a male staff member who was caught sexually assaulting an elderly female resident. The nursing home supervisors waited two hours to call the police and did not inform the family of the rape until a year after the woman’s death. Additionally, several nursing homes in the study were found to have underreported, ignored and even covered up allegations of abuse.
According to the report, the state’s Department of Health also mishandled most of the claims. The department repeatedly labeled serious abuse incidents as “non-urgent” and failed to notify the families of victims about the findings. There were also over two dozen accusations of criminal abuse that were received but never investigated. The Health Department sometimes took up to two months to respond to a claim, and for ten years failed to meet the mandatory federal deadlines for responding to abuse allegations.
This has led to a massive outcry from the public and from senior care advocates. Although these cases are extreme, elder abuse is a sad reality for many senior citizens. It is important for the families of these victims to know that they still have legal recourse to advocate for their loved ones.