By Melissa Thompson
The word “nursing” in nursing home seems to imply nurturing and care for our most vulnerable friends and family members – those who have gained in age and are not able to physically or mentally take care of themselves anymore.
We can be very trusting people, and sometimes we don’t want to think of our strong and independent family member as being weak and vulnerable, and we never think that people working at a nursing home would have a heart that is anything but golden and generous.
But for a while now, there has been a scourge in nursing homes that only recently has come out into the light – the problem is that the scourge hasn’t been like a cockroach and scattered away when the light was shined on it. So it will have to be up to us to eradicate it.
We’re talking about sexual abuse and exploitation of the elderly and mentally incapacitated.
Yes, it is hard to imagine, but it happens and is happening more frequently than we can possibly imagine. Who are the people who would do such heinous things?
Turns out, many of them are people who have past convictions for rape or sexual abuse – of children or young people. These people often have a very difficult time finding work after their prison terms and many of them are given specific orders never to be around children or young people ever again.
So what do they do? They go back to school and get educated in hospice or elder care, and they get employed in elder-care facilities to take care of seniors and the mentally infirmed. What they find is another group of easy prey. And as these people are often confined to the facility, as opposed to children who have schools and homes as refuges, these victims can’t escape.
And lest you think that nursing homes are doing their part to extricate these criminals from their facilities once they are found to have been abusive, there is only half of it – part of the problem is that the whistleblowers are also being terminated. Those who are actually doing the right thing and report what they observe that is against the interests of the residents, are being ushered out the door as well for reasons that seem to escape logic.
Reform of elder-care facilities must be undertaken. Ideally the work should be done from within, but it’s likely that state licensing agencies will have to get involved in the process for any real reform to take place. Of course, having the family of a victim know and exercise its legal rights and know its expectations for the elder-care facility may help expedite the process – after all, very little motivates change faster than a lawsuit or other alteration to profit (such as negative word-of-mouth).