Prosecutors in Minnesota filed nursing home abuse charges Dec. 1 against six teenagers who worked part-time at a nursing home in Albert Lea, Minn. The Associated Press reported that the teens, all girls, are charged with groping residents’ breasts and genitals; spitting in their mouths; and verbally taunting them, sometimes until they screamed. All of the victims had Alzheimer’s or dementia, according to the report. Two girls over the age of 18 are charged as adults with assault, abuse of a vulnerable adult, abuse of a vulnerable adult with sexual contact, disorderly conduct and failure to report abuse. Four others who are still juveniles are charged with failure to report abuse.
This is the sort of case that’s made to order for criminal charges. However, the prosecutor in the case has come under fire because he isn’t pursing jail time for the two older girls. In fact, he told the AP they would likely get suspended sentences and probation. Perhaps there are circumstances that make probation the right choice, but I hope these girls are held responsible for their actions in a meaningful way.
When prosecutors can’t or won’t pursue full criminal charges against perpetrators of nursing home abuse, families in Illinois and other states can also seek justice through the civil courts. You cannot send someone to jail with a Chicago nursing home abuse lawsuit, but you can still hold the perpetrators legally responsible for their actions. A financial judgment can be a strong message and a serious economic burden for a home that has unfairly profited from its abusive practices. It can also ease the family’s own financial burdens substantially, which can be very important if family members had to dip into savings, take a leave of absence from work or make other financial sacrifices to pull a loved one out of an abusive home.
Finally, it’s worth asking why teenagers were allowed to care for these patients without close supervision. Teenage girls working as nurses’ aides is nothing new, but working with mentally ill patients requires special patience and sometimes special skills. Skilled nurses and nurses’ aides are much more expensive to employ than teenagers — for a reason. If cost-cutting is behind this story, the organization that runs the home may be liable, along with the perpetrators themselves (and anyone who looked the other way). If someone you love is a victim of nursing home abuse in Illinois and you’d like to know more about your legal options, please contact us at Abels & Annes today.