Sexually Transmitted Diseases in Nursing Homes
Rates of sexually transmitted diseases, or STDs, in elderly Americans are rising, including among nursing home residents. While most cases of STDs in nursing home residents result from consensual sexual activity, some may be the direct result of neglect or abuse on the part of the facility staff. If you or a loved one has contracted an STD in a nursing home due to inadequate attention from the staff, misdiagnosis, or sexual abuse, visit NursingHomesAbuse.org.
If you have entrusted a nursing home with the care of an elderly relative, you want to believe that the staff and administration take their safety and well-being seriously.
But unfortunately, many health issues that arise in nursing homes and long-term care facilities result from neglect or abuse on the part of the staff. Residents of nursing homes are generally at a higher risk of outbreaks of several infectious diseases due to the large number of residents in a single facility and the higher rate of immunocompromised individuals in care facilities.
While contagious diseases such as the flu or gastroenteritis will prompt immediate attention, one often overlooked cause of illness in nursing home residents is sexually transmitted disease. STDs in nursing homes are a complex issue resulting from many factors. But if you suspect a loved one has contracted an STD in a nursing home, you must determine whether it resulted from abuse or neglect by the facility or its staff. At NursingHomesAbuse.org, we can provide essential information about STDs and other diseases in nursing homes and offer legal resources if you suspect abuse or neglect as the cause.
Do Nursing Homes Have High STD Rates?
Over the past several years, STD rates in nursing homes have been rising. Exact statistics from nursing homes are somewhat hard to come by since most health organizations and departments track data based on age ranges rather than by residency. However, most statistics for STDs in nursing homes suggest a significant rate increase over the past 20 years.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, STD rates have reached historically high levels among elderly Americans. Current data suggests that rates of STDs in Americans age 65 or older have risen by as much as 260 percent since 2008. Many of these affected individuals are residents of nursing homes.
Why STD Rates Are on the Rise
The cause of the recent rise in STD rates is complex, and it’s difficult to pinpoint a specific factor. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, STD rates for Americans of all ages have risen steadily in recent years. Diagnoses of specific STDs such as syphilis and gonorrhea are at the highest levels since 1991, while diagnoses of chlamydia are at the highest levels ever recorded. The recent surge in STD rates in nursing homes is likely related to this overall trend.
However, specific cases of STDs in nursing homes may also relate to medical innovations affecting individuals 65 or older. Erectile dysfunction medications such as Viagra and hormone therapies for post-menopausal women have allowed individuals 65 or older to engage in sexual activity more frequently. At the same time, many nursing home residents may have inadequate education on safe sexual practices.
Older women may assume that because they can no longer become pregnant, they do not need to practice safe sex, while nursing home residents as a whole may be unaware of the potential risk for STD transmittance among their population.
Social stigma about sexual activity in the older population may also discourage nursing home residents from addressing the issue or seeking medical help if they suspect they have an STD. This results in an inadequate institutional response to an STD outbreak among a nursing home population, which only causes the situation to worsen.
Types of STDs Among Nursing Homes
The three most common types of STDs found among nursing home residents are gonorrhea, chlamydia, and syphilis. Other common types of STDs, such as genital herpes, human papillomavirus, and parasitic infections like pubic lice, are also common. More serious STDs, such as the human immunodeficiency virus, may also occur, especially with inadequate screening and diagnostic tools.
How Residents Contract STDs in Nursing Homes
Most new cases of STDs in nursing homes are the result of consensual sexual activity among residents. While there are nursing homes with strict no-sex policies, many have adopted policies that allow private sexual interaction among consenting residents. However, even in homes with no-sex policies, residents do find ways to be alone and unsupervised.
Unfortunately, not all STD cases arise from consensual interactions. Some cases result from sexual abuse by nursing home staff or other residents. STDs may indicate sexual abuse if the nursing home resident is not physically capable of having sex or suffers from a neurocognitive issue that prevents them from fully consenting to sexual activity.
How Do Infections Spread in Nursing Homes?
STD infections in nursing homes can spread at a rapid rate in the absence of adequate education or a comprehensive medical response. Nursing home residents may not recognize the risk of STDs before engaging in sexual activity with other residents. Nursing homes and long-term care facilities should also recognize the specific signs and symptoms of STDs when providing medical care to their residents. If a nursing home fails to diagnose a resident with an STD promptly, that resident may spread the disease to others.
Are STDs a Sign of Nursing Home Neglect?
STDs may indicate nursing home neglect, although different factors may complicate the issue. Nursing home residents are adults with the right to engage in consensual sexual activity. Residents also expect a certain degree of privacy from nursing home staff. If a nursing home were to closely monitor the sexual behavior of its residents to keep track of STD risks, residents might justifiably feel that their privacy was violated. Simple failure on the part of a nursing home to prevent its adult residents from engaging in consensual sex may not be a case of neglect in and of itself.
However, legal neglect may be a contributing factor in some cases. If a nursing home does not diagnose a resident with an STD due to inadequate medical services or insufficient oversight, that may qualify as neglect. Cases of STDs resulting from sexual abuse present a much stronger case for neglect by the nursing home administration. Nursing homes and care facilities are responsible for the people they hire. If a staff member sexually abuses a resident and gives them an STD, the nursing home may be liable.
Nursing homes have a legal duty to provide reasonable safety and care to residents. Thus, a nursing home may be liable if a resident takes advantage of a physically or mentally vulnerable patient and gives them an STD.
Potential Causes of Neglect in Nursing Homes
Nursing home neglect often stems from inadequate staffing and resources. Understaffed and underresourced facilities cannot provide adequate monitoring and protection of residents.
Understaffing and inadequate training can also cause the facility to not meet residents’ basic medical and personal needs. Overburdened or inadequately trained nursing home staff may also fail to diagnose cases of STDs or recognize signs of sexual abuse among residents.
Signs of STDs and Sexual Abuse
STD symptoms vary somewhat depending on the specific disease. However, common symptoms of STDs are:
- Itching or discomfort in the genital area
- Pain or burning during urination
- Rashes, sores, or blisters around the genitals
- Blood or unusual discharge from the genitals
- Pain in the pelvis or lower abdomen
Common signs of sexual abuse among nursing home residents include the following:
- Unexplained bruises, especially around the breasts or genital area
- Torn clothing
- Withdrawal from social interaction
- Increased panic or anxiety
- STD infections in residents who are physically or mentally unable to engage in consensual sex
What to Do If You Suspect Neglect in a Nursing Home
In most cases, STDs in nursing homes can be dealt with through simple medical treatments, education, and safe sex resources. But if you or a loved one have contracted an STD due to abuse or neglect in a nursing home, you need the best legal resources available.
NursingHomesAbuse.org provides essential legal assistance to nursing home residents who have suffered from abuse and neglect. Get in touch with NursingHomesAbuse.org to find the legal help you need.
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