OTLA Trial Lawyer Winter 2022

36 Trial Lawyer • Winter 2022 By Faith Morse OTLA Guardian I hope the idea of nursing home sexual abuses turns your stomach. It certainly turns mine. Unfortunately, this is a reality that far too many people have lived. I have had the opportunity to hear some of those stories. One day, several years ago, I sat across from her at a table in the memory care unit. She was hunched over a bit but toyed with her mug while she smiled at me. She looked like someone’s sweet grandmother. We talked, but she could not tell me her name, howmany children she had or if she preferred milk over orange juice. After about 15 minutes, I slipped out and went to meet with her husband who lived in an assisted living facility. They had lived there together until her dementia became too complicated for him to continue caring for her. The reason I was meeting with both of them is the facility had accepted one particular male resident into the memory care unit. He also suffered from dementia, which removes inhibitions and awareness of what he was doing. He started with inappropriate sexual contact with the staff. When that was too difficult, he turned to the female residents in the memory care unit. Several of them had husbands in the attached assisted living facility. When the husbands found out what was happening, they complained to the staff and sought to have the women protected. When that achieved nothing, they started taking shifts at the memory care unit to prevent the abuse. The facility of course did the reasonable thing and banned the husbands from the memory care unit, telling the husbands they were welcome to request their wives be brought to them for visits any time they liked. This facility knew it had a predator in its midst and its response was to remove the only protection these women’s families could provide. In my opinion (call it informed or biased as you wish), the facility was exploiting the female residents to keep that predator off its staff and allow it to keep receiving his monthly payments. After all, as the justification goes, even dementia patients have a right to sexual autonomy and decision making. Resident-on-resident abuse is not the only form this kind of abuse takes. Staffon-resident sexual exploitation is also sickeningly common. Inadequate security can allow strangers into the building who then rape. You have probably heard about the incapacitated woman who gave birth after being a patient at an Arizona health care facility for more than two decades.1 Employees at the facility said they were shocked when the woman, who cannot speak or move without assistance, went into labor. Her family had specifically requested only female staff be responsible for the woman’s personal care, which included dressing, bathing, use of the toilet and menses care. Her care plan also indicated she was required to have 24hour supervision due to physical and medical limitations. Her lawyers say she had been raped repeatedly and may have been impregnated before. A staffmember was identified as the assailant, at least for the rape that left her pregnant, through genetic testing of the baby. Most assaults leave no such evidence behind, or the evidence is washed away at the next shower or laundry day. Some staff are sick enough to document their heinous acts with photos or videos. Sometimes families grow distrustful enough to install a nanny cam in their loved one’s room and catch the exploitation on camera. Occasionally, the perpetrator is caught in the act by witnesses. Faith Morse Nursing Home Sexual Abuse