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National Exposure of Nursing Home Sexual Abuse Problem in the U.S.

By February 22, 2017

Nursing home abuse

For more than 15 years, the Kosieradzki • Smith Law Firm has helped nursing home sexual abuse victims and their families get the justice they deserve. Through their legal experience on hundreds of cases, they have seen a growing number of nursing home abuse cases involving sexual assault. When CNN set out to learn more about this troubling issue and was looking for an authority in this area of law, they came to Kosieradzki • Smith President and Attorney Mark Kosieradzki.

As part of its investigation, CNN interviewed Kosieradzki on this growing problem. “Sexual abuse of the elderly happens more often than you can imagine. It is a well-known risk in the Elder Care Industry. Yet Elder Care facility operators often fail to take that risk seriously,” said Kosieradzki. “Sexual predators get jobs as caregivers because they find elderly patients to be easy prey. Those elderly patients often have dementia, they can’t say what happened, or are not believed because many people find it inconceivable that a 28-year-old caregiver would want to rape someone’s grandmother.”

After learning more about the cases handled by Kosieradzki • Smith involving sexual abuse by care staff in elder care facilities, CNN was motivated to launch a 4-month investigation to expose this serious problem of nursing home abuse nationwide.

“We appreciate CNN’s interest in exposing this growing problem to the public. We were honored that CNN contacted Kosieradzki • Smith to help bring this problem to light,” said Kosieradzki. “This is an important issue impacting our communities and we hope this story helps individuals and families to be alert and to understand they are not alone and justice for these crimes are possible.”

Nursing Home Abuse in Minnesota

CNN featured two Kosieradzki • Smith cases in its investigative coverage. These cases exemplify the current issue at hand and bring this critical topic to a national stage.

One case involved a nursing home assistant who raped an 83-year old resident with severe dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Kosieradzki • Smith represented the rape survivor and achieved a $15-million judgment entered against the rapist, with penalties in place if he sexually abuses again. Additionally, the nursing home employee was ordered to donate $2,000 to the Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault (MCASA).

In another case, Kosieradzki • Smith represented an elderly rape victim and achieved a $10-million judgment entered against the rapist, with penalties in place if he sexually abuses again. A 28-year old male care attendant raped an 89-year old female resident after entering her room late at night and drugging her with a narcotic. She protested and told him he was hurting her, yet he continued to assault her, intentionally continuing the intolerable conduct. One of the key factors in the case was not only holding the rapist accountable and ensuring that he never does this to anyone again, but also holding his employer accountable for trying to cover up the rape. Kosieradzki • Smith pursued punitive damages claims against the rapist and against the managers, who cared more about protecting their corporation than protecting a vulnerable adult who was raped by their employee. Kosieradzki • Smith won a multi-million dollar settlement for her against the owners and operators of the assisted living facility. Per Kosieradzki, “This is a message to other wrongdoers, including the companies that employ them: we will not let you get away with abusing vulnerable adults without paying the price.” Approximately 70% of nursing homes in our country are owned by for-profit businesses.

An Aging America

The size and structure of aging Americans is changing. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the nation will experience considerable growth in its older population as baby boomers continue to enter their golden years. The 2010 census showed that more than 40 million people in the U.S. (more than 13% of population) are over 65 years old and almost 6 million are more than 85 years old.

This growth in elderly individuals is increasing the demand and need for nursing homes and elderly care facilities. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the number of nursing home residents surpassed 1.4 million (in 2014). In addition, according to the CDC, “about 67,000 paid, regulated long-term care services providers served about nine million people in the United States. Long-term care services were provided by 4,800 adult day services centers, 12,400 home health agencies 4,000 hospices, 15,600 nursing homes, and 30,200 assisted living and similar residential care communities.” The increased utilization of care facilities is giving way to more and more cases of nursing home abuse and sexual misconduct.

The Alzheimer’s Association reports that “more than 50 percent of residents in assisted living and nursing homes have some form of dementia or cognitive impairment, including Alzheimer’s.” Furthermore, this prevalence of residents in elder care facilities will increase, as the Alzheimer’s Association states: “The number of people with Alzheimer’s is projected to sharply increase from more than 5 million today to as many as 16 million by 2050, as the 78 million Baby Boomers mature and reach the age of highest risk.”

These demographics are significant to the risk of sexual assaults and the impact of sexual assault on the elderly victim. In elder victims with cognitive problems, the initial post-trauma symptoms are often muted. For example, elderly rape survivors may not be able to tell others of the details of the assault or the trauma-related thoughts they may be having (e.g., involuntary repeated memories of the rape) following the assault.

In addition, assault victims often develop fears and phobias to the circumstances surrounding the attack and have symptoms consistent with post traumatic stress symptom (PTSD), such as fear, anxiety, social withdrawal, or emotional numbing. Victims oftentimes have a physiological and kinesthetic memory of the event and their emotional response of fear. The rape survivor’s body remembers the assault and she re-experiences the fear and anxiety when asked about the assault incident, adding to her physiological and emotional distress.

The Kosieradzki • Smith Law Firm is committed to holding wrongdoers accountable with punitive damages to punish them and to deter others from engaging in this reprehensible conduct in our community. If you believe your loved one has been sexually assaulted in a nursing home or other elder care facility, take action and contact the Kosieradzki • Smith Law Firm online or call us toll-free at (877) 552-2873 to set up a no-cost, no-obligation consultation.

Additional Resources:
Six women. Three nursing homes. And the man accused of rape and abuse
My mother was raped in a nursing home at 88
Identifying Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect
How to Report Nursing Home Abuse & Neglect
Nursing Home Resources

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