When residents enter your care, their family and loved ones are relying on you to provide a safe environment for the residents to live and reside. That is the goal of the majority of adult residential care homes and facilities across the United States and they are capable of providing the exceptional care expected of them. Unfortunately mistakes and mishaps do happen and claims arise including lawsuits regarding medication administration, slips and falls, and neglect. One the worst types of claims include allegations of sexual or physical abuse and molestation to residents which can be in the form of resident to resident, staff to resident, or another third party to resident.
We are seeing an increase in the number of abuse claims reported because elderly residents that suffer from dementia or Alzheimer’s are at a greater risk of sexual abuse and molestation due to their declining cognitive state. These types of residents are often the target of predators because they are not able to communicate as freely as other residents. As a quality and reputable adult residential care home provider, you can implement procedures, policies and steps to promote a safe living environment, prevent instances of abuse and protect your home in the event an abuse claim does arise.
An abuse prevention policy and procedure is essential for all adult residential care homes and facilities to implement and should address the following items:
1. Prevention Statement that specifically defines abuse types as well as prohibits them from being accepted as proper behavior. A sample statement would read: “It is the policy of our home to not allow or condone physical, sexual, mental, or emotional abuse to our residents. We have implemented policies and procedures outlined within to prevent these instances from occurring.”
2. Policy addressing the outcome if a staff member is accused or found guilty of this type of behavior. A sample policy would be: “This type of behavior will not be accepted and those accused of such behavior will be investigated following the outlined investigation procedures while on a temporary suspension and those found to be guilty of such behavior will be subject to immediate termination.”
3. Prevention techniques the set rules in place to avoid situations where abuse or molestation may occur. Sample rules could include staff never being alone with residents, residents never being alone with other residents, all guests must sign in and sign out with the time of arrival and departure, visits should occur in public rooms and any suspected incidents must be reported to management.
4. Proper hiring procedures should include background and reference checks of all potential employees even those not expected to directly work with the residents.
5. Proper volunteer screening should require volunteers to show proof of clearances.
6. Training and education path and plans should be established that include initial training and yearly trainings for all staff.
7. Investigation procedures should be defined as to when they will occur as well as what steps will be taken and who will conduct it. Items to address in this section include: completing an incident report, interviewing those accused, interviewing those who reported the incident, notifying the family, notifying proper authorities, and maintaining relationships with the family through the process.
8. The provider or owners response to the situation should address who will be notified of the situation including family and mandated reporting organizations, lawyers, and the insurance company. The section should also address how the provider will take steps to immediately make the environment safe for the victim.
There are times when the owners and providers of adult residential care homes can have the above items in place and allegations still arise of sexual or physical abuse and misconduct. The best way to make sure you are properly prepared in this type of event is to have insurance in place that includes abuse and molestation liability coverage. This is typically found on a professional liability or general and professional liability policy and protects the adult residential care home by paying for defense of the claim and settlement arising from the claim. The policy will not protect or defend the accused as sexual abuse and molestation are illegal acts and insurance policies are not intended to protect those who commit crimes.