Imagine that you are helpless in bed, relying on another’s care for survival. One day, as you are being fed or bathed or changed, your caregiver turns against you and forces you to perform sex acts on him or takes advantage of you while you are sleeping. Now, imagine that you are elderly and that the likelihood of anyone believing what you have experienced is slim simply due to your age or other disability. These are the experiences of thousands of senior citizens and mentally or physically incapacitated patients throughout the country who reside in residential care facilities, assisted living centers, and other long-term care facilities.
Elder care sex abuse is not an issue most people are familiar with or have ever even conceived. It is not an issue that should ever have been conceived, yet the thought has crossed the minds of dozens of unfit caregivers, and many have acted upon them. As horrifying as it sounds, elder care abuse is barely on the radar. It is not even a priority for most law enforcement agencies and officials. But it is a serious issue that is gaining more awareness, as instances of abuse are on the rise.
A Hidden Problem
Throughout the United States, incidents of sex abuse toward those who are in long-term care facilities such as nursing homes have increased. Residents are assaulted by caretakers, facility personnel, other residents, and sometimes, even the owner himself. Sadly, there are currently no reliable national data due to a lack of organized data collection regarding these statistics. Just one organization — the Administration for Community Living based in Washington D.C. — has compiled any kind of data: approximately 20,000 complaints in a span of 20 years. This works out to about 3 complaints per day; this statistic excludes incidents of resident-on-resident sex abuse. Realistically, the numbers are likely much higher.
The issue is rampant and yet plagued by unawareness, apathy, and sheer neglect. No one really “believes” that elderly or incapacitated persons could be the victims of rape or other forms of sexual abuse. Victims may be too embarrassed to speak up, or they don’t think anyone will believe them. Families and friends who visit may suspect abuse but don’t wish to believe it or don’t want to get involved, and don’t raise concerns. Facilities have enormous financial incentives not to take action. This apathy protects these facilities and the perpetrators of these crimes, leaving already vulnerable residents even more prone to attack.
Consider the case of Keeney Country Homes. Owner Mark Allen Keeney, 61, was caught in a motel room with two middle-aged female patients who were reportedly mentally ill and under the care of a guardian. Empty beer cans were scattered throughout the room.
Within a week, inspectors revoked Keeney’s licenses to operate Keeney Country Homes and a second facility he owned called Maple Crest Residential Care Facility, both located in Poplar Bluff, Missouri.
Eighteen months after his licenses were revoked, Keeney was charged with rape and sodomy. Initial charges were dismissed. Prosecutors refiled charges later, to which he plead not guilty.
In this case, the state acted quickly to protect residents of Keeney Country Homes. Such facilities could face repercussions for allowing abuse to take place, from incurring fines to losing reimbursements for Medicare and Medicaid. These consequences are simply not enough. If sex abuse has impacted your family, it may benefit you to seek the aid of a personal injury attorney in your area who handles these cases.
Due to loose regulations and a severe lack of resources, no one really knows how much sex abuse takes place in nursing homes. The majority of victims never receive an investigation. Nationwide, there is a dire need for state inspectors to properly vet these facilities. In order to receive some kind of justice, victims are relying primarily on volunteer ombudsmen who are appointed to investigate such complaints. Unlike doctors, therapists, and others, volunteers are not legally required to pursue complaints if they wish to honor the wishes of victims who do not want to take action.
Right in Your Hometown
Right here in Oregon, nursing home residents at any of the over 600 facilities may be at risk for abuse. In February, a St. Vincent nursing assistant was accused of sexually abusing seven elderly patients. Of 28 sex charges against him, Adeladilew Mekonen, 34, plead guilty to two charges and entered a plea agreement that would keep him behind bars for 25 years. Since then, 5 more victims came forward for a total of 12.
If you or someone you know has suffered due to the neglect or willful harm of a long-term care facility, you deserve tough representation to seek damages. Speak with Richard Rizk of Rizklaw by calling 503-245-5677 or contact us for a free consultation.