Laszlo Molnar, the owner of an elder care home in Auburn, Washington, was arrested last Fall for raping an 83-year-old resident in his care. The disturbing assault was caught on a hidden camera installed by relatives of the woman, who suffers from Alzheimer’s and has limited communication abilities. The other residents of the home were relocated to other facilities—unfortunately all of them suffer from dementia and were unable to provide further information about other instances of abuse in the home.

Identifying sexual abuse of the elderly

Sexual assault of the elderly is a crime that carries a lower likelihood of charges being brought and assailants being found guilty. Many nursing home residents have impaired physical and cognitive abilities, and this makes them among the most vulnerable members of society. Most of the time the only indication that sexual abuse has taken place is where the victim exhibits signs of physical trauma. These signs include new or unexplained:

  • Pain when sitting or walking
  • Blood on underwear, bed sheets or clothes
  • Bruising on breasts, inner thighs or buttocks
  • Bruising, bleeding or infection in genital region
  • Sexually-transmitted disease

Since many people visiting elderly relatives don’t necessarily check for most of these things, it is important that everyone is aware of the behavioral signs of sexual abuse in otherwise non-communicative senior citizen:

  • Anxiety or fear, particularly when a specific person is in the vicinity
  • Relationship with a caregiver that appears out of the ordinary
  • New fear of being touched
  • Sudden change in behavior, psychosomatic complaints
  • Withdrawal and/or depression
  • Difficulty sleeping, nightmares

Note that sexual abuse does not require physical touching—it may also include forcing an elderly person to watch sexual acts or pornographic materials and forcing them to undress against their will. For example, in 2012 two home health care workers in San Diego were caught on tape fondling each other in the presence of a stroke victim.

Litigation challenges

Litigating these challenging cases requires experience and in-depth knowledge of elder abuse laws and regulations. These cases require knowledge of how to file nursing home abuse reports, how to properly conduct an investigation, how to file legal claims against facilities and employees, and knowing when to settle and when to go after them aggressively in court.

Many of these cases involve third party claims, such as where the nursing home failed to protect the victim against the acts of another resident or the guest of that resident. These cases are always very sensitive and disturbing and require the services of a nursing home negligence law firm with the resources, expertise and manpower to actively, tactfully and aggressively protect the patient’s rights and pursue maximum compensation on their behalf.