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Pennsylvania Families Should Be Alert to Sexual Abuse of Nursing Home Patients

The Troy (New York) Record recently reported on the sentencing of a former nursing home aide for sexually abusing a nursing home patient. As a Pennsylvania nursing home abuse lawyer, I was glad to see the court make clear that abuse of helpless nursing home patients will not be tolerated. Robert Gunderson, 52, of Schoharie County, NY, pled guilty to attempted first-degree sexual abuse. Gunderson admitted to touching the breast of a 78-year-old woman who was a patient at the Northwoods Rehabilitation Center and Extended Care Facility in Schaghticoke, NY, where he worked as a nurse’s aide. The patient was “physically helpless,” according to the Record, and the abuse occurred in late 2007 and early 2008. Gunderson was sentenced to ten years’ probation, although he could have faced up to seven years of jail time on the charges that were brought against him.

Surprisingly, these are not the first allegations of sexual abuse concerning Gunderson. He is also facing a charge of third-degree sexual abuse for an alleged incident that took place during his employment at the Eddy Ford Nursing Home in Cohoes, NY. In August and September of 2008, Gunderson is alleged to have French kissed a patient with multiple sclerosis who was confined to a wheelchair. It is disturbing that Gunderson was able to behave this way toward patients in two different nursing homes over the course of a year. Nursing homes have a legal responsibility to ensure that they hire qualified staff with no history of abuse or other dangerous criminal violations. Nevertheless, some homes may cut corners to save money. For example, they may not conduct sufficient background checks. Or they may be so understaffed that personnel do not see patients frequently enough to notice signs of abuse from another staff member.

Nursing home patients’ family members should be alert to signs of abuse when they visit. According to an article in Nursing Homes, signs that a patient may have been sexually abused include: “difficulty in walking or sitting, pain or itching in genital areas, the occurrence of sexually transmitted diseases, unexplained bruising, welts, lacerations, fractures, or other injuries, decreased socialization, self-injurious behavior and/or attempts to hurt others, fear of specific people or places, [and] habit disorders such as pulling hair or ears.”

As a Philadelphia nursing home negligence attorney, I strongly urge nursing home patients who have suffered abuse of any kind at the hands of their caregivers to seek help from an experienced nursing home abuse lawyer. Patients who have been harmed by a nursing home’s negligence, such as failure to ensure patient safety, can sue for medical expenses and compensation for pain and suffering. Rosenbaum & Associates represents nursing home residents and families who have suffered because of a nursing home’s improper actions. To learn more or set up a consultation, please call us at 1-800-7-LEGAL-7 or contact us through our Web site.

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