An Ohio nursing home aide was charged with sexually assaulting a 92-year-old nursing home resident in a Cincinnati area nursing home. The attacker was 22-years-old. While there aren’t many facts surrounding the case available at this time, several things seem to be beyond dispute.
This 22-year-old man took the job of a nursing home aide in order to sexually assault the elderly victims in his care. He was stopped, and he was stopped early in his career. If he had not been, the number of his potential victims is staggering.
Being a certified nursing assistant (CNA) is a difficult, low paying job. For some, it’s an opportunity to build a resume for a career in nursing, geriatric medicine, or administration. For others, caring for the elderly and sick is a calling.
But for an undeniable few, the elderly are the perfect victims for abuse. They’re physically weak, but lack the family oversight that children have. When they suffer from Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia, their tales of abuse are often disbelieved. The details quickly grow hazy even to the victim, leaving a patina of fear. In almost all cases, the abuser is in charge of the personal care of the victim, ensuring that physical evidence is rare.
As a nursing home lawyer, I’ve heard many nightmare tales from the families of residents. Often, abuse is only stopped by happenstance. A nurse or family member unexpectedly enters a room where abuse is taking place. Or, a family places a hidden camera in a room after a long period of growing suspicion.
State laws governing background checks are spotty. Often, the nursing home only conducts statewide checks, making it easy for abusers to become employed in neighboring states when suspicion has been sufficiently aroused. Nursing homes are systematically understaffed. At this point, it’s almost fair to say that understaffed is the new staffed.
In these circumstances, how is it even possible to keep nursing home residents safe from abusers?
One potential answer is monitored closed circuit cameras. Some states have already passed laws allowing family members to place security cameras in the rooms of their loved ones, but that doesn’t go far enough.
To truly provide an environment that would discourage abusers, video surveillance should be standard in every room. Not only would this prevent systemic abuse, it would also reduce the amount of neglect that takes place in nursing homes across the country.