Yesterday, a KY nursing home nursing assistant was indicted on accounts of video voyeurism and adult abuse for recording nude video of one of the nursing home residents under her care. The western KY nursing home where this occurred was Dawson Pointe in Dawson Springs and had previously been cited by Kentucky state officials. The guilty nineteen-year-old nursing assistant recorded at least two videos on her cell phone prior to her arrest.
This teenage nursing home employee’s perverse activity may not have become the subject of this week’s Tennessee Law Blog if not for the seeming increase in reports of TN nursing home sexual abuse I and my Nashville law offices have encountered this year. Tennessee newspapers and television have honed in on these nursing home sexual abuse stories as well.
A cell phone was also used by a Tennessee nursing home nursing assistant to record nude images of nursing home residents at Pigeon Forge Care and Rehabilitation Center in a disturbing story that came to light early May 2009. In multiple violations of residents’ privacy and dignity, at least a dozen nursing home residents were photographed.
These violations of residents were discovered after the nursing assistant’s phone with 47 incriminating photos and 27 videos of nursing home residents was left in a restaurant and turned into the Pigeon Forge Care and Rehabilitation Center administration. Photos included nude or seminude residents in costumes, including a photo of male resident stripped naked and wearing a bead necklace and a video of nursing home staff repeatedly telling a resident, “I love you,” while pressuring the resident tell them the same.
The nursing assistant has admitted to making these inappropriate recordings but allegedly defended these actions by stating that residents were “my babies” and “I guess in hindsight, I probably should not have taken them, and I meant to delete the ones that are nude.”
This phone’s owner and a second certified nursing assistant who appeared in some images were fired by the TN nursing home. The Tennessee Department of Health has since determined that Pigeon Forge nursing home failed to protect its residents from this sexual abuse and suspended nursing home admissions on May 26. A ban on staff members using cell phones in resident areas has since been enacted. According to this new nursing home policy, infringement will result in immediate termination.
Chillingly, and tellingly in these kinds of sexual abuse cases, many residents interviewed multiple times did not remember the images being made of them, according to the nursing home in a report to the Tennessee Department of Health.
The Tennessee nursing home had admissions suspended for nearly a month and a state civil fine of $3,000. Residents had made complaints against Pigeon Forge Care and Rehabilitation Center in 2007 about cell phone usage among staff, but the criticism was against foul language used while staff was on their cell phones.
The hardest cases for a nursing home abuse lawyer to hear are those of a sexual nature. I don’t care if you started your law practice last week or, like me, many years ago, any form of elder sexual abuse in or out of a TN nursing home is difficult to stomach. What some Tennesseans with loved ones in nursing home care do not understand is the prevalence and degrading and unseeming activity that some nursing homes foster by not properly screening their staff or understaffing their nursing homes.
As in the cases mentioned, not all sexual abuse requires a physical or forced assault. Acts can qualify for nursing home sexual abuse where no body contact is made. When listening to your loved one’s or when your inner voice tells you something is off, remember that any act of a sexual nature occurring without consent can constitute abuse. Also remember that generational differences and failing memory may make it difficult for our elderly loved ones to speak about sexual acts.
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If you believe your loved one in a TN nursing home is a victim of severe mistreatment, whether physical abuse or negligent care or violations of their dignity and rights, give my downtown Nashville, TN law offices a call at 615.353.0930 or toll-free at 800.705.2121. I, and my fellow Higgins Firm attorneys, not only offer our legal expertise in Tennessee nursing home abuse/neglect matters but also extend our assistance to those suffering abuse/neglect in Kentucky and Georgia nursing homes.