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Do long-term care facilities mishandle claims of sexual abuse?

A recent article exposed a disturbing statistic: Since 2000, over 16,000 complaints of sex crimes have been reported in long-term care facilities across the United States. The data, collected by the Administration for Community Living, tracked only complaints where state long-term care ombudsmen became involved in the case resolutions.

However, it is important to distinguish unsupported allegations from substantiated claims. For example, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services maintain a database of abuse complaints. That data indicates that 226 nursing homes have been cited for failing to protect residents from substantiated instances of sexual abuse between 2010 and 2015. Records of unsubstantiated allegations were not kept. Similarly, state agencies generally will not release an alleged perpetrator’s name until the allegations against him or her have been substantiated.

In responding to an allegation of a sex crime, is important to have efficient and lawful procedures in place. The privacy of the parties should be protected during the investigative stage, and the accused deserves procedural due process and a presumption of innocence until his or her guilt has been proven by the evidentiary standard of beyond a reasonable doubt.

Unfortunately, long-term care facilities might be falling short in responding to complaints of sexual abuse, for several reasons. In some instances, the victims may be unable to communicate and identify their assailants. Nursing home administrators may not know how to investigate the accusations. In other cases, the lack of corroborating evidence may result in stalled investigations. Whether an accused long-term care worker might experience employment or other repercussions from an unsubstantiated allegation is also a concern.

Our Pittsburgh law firm helps clients not only with concerns about their long-term care, but also taking proactive steps to safeguarding their rights in such facilities. To learn more about our approach, check out our website.

Source: CNN, “Sick, Dying and Raped in America’s Nursing Homes,” Blake Ellis and Melanie Hicken, Feb. 22, 2017

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