Nursing Home Residents Suffer Repeated Physical, Sexual Abuses By Fellow Residents

Several residents of a nursing home suffered repeated physical and sexual abuse at the hands of their fellow residents in 2006-07, a pattern of violence that nursing home management failed to stem or report, state officials alleged.

Abuses uncovered at the nursing home resulted in fines and prompted an ongoing criminal investigation by the state attorney general's office.

Victims included both male and female residents at the nursing home, which in November was named to a federal government list of the nation's most troubled nursing homes.

Some residents who allegedly targeted their neighbors no longer live at the roughly 140-bed nursing home, though others remain, a state official said.

One woman lived at the nursing home for just more than a year, until November 2007, and knew several residents who were harassed and assaulted. Nursing home employees didn't prevent aggressive patients from striking time and again, she said, an allegation backed up by state reports.

"I wouldn't send a dog there," said the woman.

More recently, state regulators cited the nursing home for problems with patient confidentiality, incomplete medication records, improper care for bedsores and not preventing residents from falling. The nursing home was fined nearly $38,000 in 2007-08 for violations stemming from bedsores, falls and assaults on patients.

Nursing home staff didn't investigate the incidents as abuse or report them to the state, records show. Inspectors said employees neglected to protect the residents, often leaving them to fend for themselves.

Some men groped and grabbed women who couldn't physically defend themselves. One man exposed his genitals; another touched women's legs while he sat next to them playing bingo, said one former resident, who recalled such incidents after being contacted by the local newspaper.

The report detailed several attacks from a 71-year-old male resident with dementia, behavior disturbance and "high-risk sexual behavior."

A female resident told inspectors the man grabbed her breast while she was in the hallway. She said the facility's social worker told her she needed to watch how she spoke to men, "because some of them might consider it an invitation."

"That's like telling me if I'm a little girl in a pretty dress that I'm asking to be raped," the woman told state inspectors. "I'm not stupid. They should have stepped in and protected me. They should have stood up for me. Do I have no rights? Do I matter to anyone?" For more, read the story.

A nursing home or assisted living facility must ensure that all reasonable steps are taken to prevent injuries inflicted by one patient on another patient. A nursing home or assisted living facility must provide adequate supervision when the risk of patient-on-patient assault exists. The potential for patient-on-patient assault increases when a patient has a history of acting aggressively with other patients or staff, including striking out, verbal outbursts, sexual improprieties, and other negative interactions.

The risk of patient-on-patient assault also increases when a patient exhibits behavior that tends to disrupt or annoy others, such as constant verbalization (e.g. crying, yelling, calling for help), making negative remarks, restlessness, repetitive behaviors, taking items that do not belong to them, going into others’ rooms, drawers, or closets, and undressing in inappropriate areas. Although these behaviors may not be aggressive in nature, they may result in a negative response from others and thereby result in verbal, physical, and/or emotional harm.


Robert W. Carter, Jr. is a Virginia attorney whose law practice is dedicated to protecting the rights of the victims of nursing home and assisted living neglect and abuse in Richmond, Roanoke, Norfolk, Lynchburg, Danville, Charlottesville, and across Virginia.


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