Most families and patients expect nursing homes and rehabilitation facilities to uphold patient dignity and take precautions to prevent sexual abuse.
According to North Carolina’s Care Home Bill of Rights, nursing home residents can expect to be treated with respect, consideration, and dignity with full recognition of individuality and the right to privacy. However, many nursing homes disregard the dignity of female residents. These facilities allow male medical personnel to help with intimate care including bathing, changing diapers and dressing. This is very sad. A majority of women are uncomfortable with male nurses/aides helping them with intimate care. This gender-neutral care was unheard of decades ago.
To make matters worse, many of these female residents have dementia and/or serious physical conditions that leave them defenseless and unable to speak up. This makes them easy prey for sexual abuse. Due to their medical conditions many of these women cannot say what happened and are not believed. Sexual assault in nursing homes is sadly commonplace and is extremely difficult to prove. As well, these crimes are underreported because many of the victims have unreliable memories due to dementia.
Jackson County residents are likely familiar with the case of Luis Gomez, a well-liked male CNA who was charged with sexually assaulting multiple female nursing home residents in Waynesville and was found guilty of six sexual offenses on these residents in 2017.
Given this, it is disturbing that a number of nursing homes in this state continue to allow male aides and nurses to carry out intimate care procedures on female residents. Disregarding any resident’s dignity opens the door for potential sexual abuse. These heinous crimes usually do not happen overnight, but progress slowly. This is exactly what happened with Gomez. He started violating female residents’ dignity by assisting them with intimate care; this led to Gomez sexually assaulting them.
Because of these proven sexual violations, the nursing home industry should address its gender-neutral approach of intimate care for female residents and recognize the potential for sexual abuse by male staff members.
Ironically, most women’s prisons in the United States have policies that prohibit male security guards from stripping female inmates – even if they are suspected of hiding drugs – or watch them showering.
Nursing homes need to realize these concerns as well and enact similar policies to protect female residents’ dignity and safety.
To learn more about this issue, check out the article, “How Nursing Homes Can Protect Residents’ Dignity and Prevent Sexual Abuse” at www.patientmodesty.org/nursinghomes.aspx and the video, Problems With Medicine Being Gender Neutral at www.youtube.com/patientmodesty.
Misty Roberts is the president of Medical Patient Modesty, a nonprofit organization that works to educate patients about how to stand up for their rights to modesty and prevent sexual abuse by medical professionals.