Living with the Horror of Elderly Abuse in Nursing Homes

I will never forget the day my mother came to me and told me that she had been up all night at the emergency room at the hospital with my 90-year-old grandmother, who was a resident in a nursing home. My mom through tears stated that my grandmother had claimed she had been raped by an employee.

I think at that moment my heart stopped. A million questions go through your head, you ask yourself can this really be true? Did this really happen?

The answer is yes it did.

Shockingly enough, the employee was 45, had worked mostly on the surgical floor, but needed extra hours and decided to help out on the nursing home floor. It happened on his third time working on the floor, the rape took 10 minutes, and his act destroyed my family. So why did this happen??

In New York State,a background check, criminal history is done when an employee works for a nursing home, but the person is allowed to work until the investigation is completed but has to be supervised . This background check can take up to 120 days to come back. His partner went to lunch without him.

He had a criminal record. We only found out about it when it hit our local newspapers that he had been in prison for 18 months for numerous drug related charges. It took only one day after he had been arrested for the newspapers to find out he had a record, so you tell me what is wrong with this picture??

My grandmother had never ever had anything happen to her, her whole life, until this happened. She had dementia, he thought he would get away with it, but she rang the bell and told on him immediately after it happened, my grandmother saved so many people on the floor that night, from it happening to anyone else. She is my hero, and always will be for what she did.

Our lives went into a total tail spin, it was all over the news, in the newspapers, for over a year. The trial when it finally came went on for it seemed forever, dna matched the rape kit, he was sentenced to 25 years in prison.

My grandmother’s health continued to get worse, during all this I had made the decision to bring her home and take care of her. I quit my job, with no experience in handling any one with dementia. But I did it, I was driven by anger for what had happened to her and vowed that I would never let something like this happen to my family again. I did get outside help through organizations, had nurses come in, and I did the best I could emotionally. But had a tough time trusting anyone except family with her alone, and dementia is the worst thing you can watch your love one go through when they are in their final stages.

Sadly enough, my grandmother died at 91, but she lived long enough to know that the man who did this to her was in prison. The day that I told her she smiled and said bad man prison, so for me she knew.

Then the surprise came I was invited to Washington DC by the Senate of the Aging Committee to speak out against elderly abuse, to tell my grandmother’s story, my grandmother was still alive at this point, after scrambling to get a family member to take care of her, I went to Washington. I have never in my life been so scared in front of a camera, but I got the story out, hoping to make a CHANGE. The most emotional thing I have ever done in my lifetime.

I was contacted by The Chicago Tribune that published an article and also by the AARP. I received lots of letters from other families that had abuse happen to their loved ones either in nursing homes or by caregivers. The response was phenomenal for me and my family, I am grateful for all who responded, we found out that we weren’t alone in this and that this is a problem that we should all be ashamed of. It made national news everywhere.

My sadness comes in the fact that it didn’t make a difference, nothing has changed, and its now been 3 years since this happened. I always cringe when I open a newspaper hoping that the next case of Elderly Abuse doesn’t happen. Hoping that another family will not have to go through the terrors of abuse. But I knew I was only one person , and it takes more than one person to make a difference.

So I ask write your congressman, know the laws surrounding your state for hiring workers, and don’t think that this can’t possibly happen to my family member, because it can. Until our government comes up with a way to stop it, its up to us to try and keep our elderly safe, and fight for them the best we can.