Wednesday, March 12, 2014
WATERVILLE — An investigation of alleged sexual abuse of a Sunset Home resident did not result in criminal charges because of a lack of evidence, according to police.
Elder abuse, which can be physical, sexual, emotional or financial, is a crime that should be reported to the police.
In addition, the state Office of Aging and Disability Services asks that instances in which someone is being abused, neglected, exploited or is unsafe be reported to Adult Protective Services. The identity of callers will be kept confidential.
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Police and the state Department of Health and Human Services opened parallel investigations on Nov. 14 after a resident reported that she had been sexually abused by an employee of the assisted living residence. Sunset Home administrators said that employee stopped working there before the allegations were made.
On Monday, Waterville police Deputy Chief Charles Rumsey said the police investigation is complete and that the case was closed without any charges filed.
Detective David Caron, who led the investigation, interviewed all the involved people and, after consulting with the district attorney’s office, determined there was not enough evidence to proceed with a criminal case, Rumsey said.
Rumsey said Caron has specialized training on crimes that are specific to the elderly, including physical abuse, sexual abuse, and theft or fraud. Rumsey estimated that several dozen such cases occur each year in Waterville.
Bill McKeagney, the head administrator at Sunset Home, would not comment on the incident, citing regulations that protect the privacy of both residents and employees at the 20-bed residence. Two days after Sunset Home staff reported the allegations to police, McKeagney said administrators were taking steps to address the allegations but on Monday he would not elaborate.
Rumsey said the department has not received any other complaints against the employee or against other staff at Sunset.
The state investigation is still ongoing and does not operate on any set timeline, according to John Martins, a spokesman for the state Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees licensing for Sunset Home and other long-term care residences.
He said businesses such as Sunset Home are licensed for two-year periods; Sunset Home is fully licensed through 2014.
Studies find sexual abuse against the elderly often go unreported, partially because older people have cognitive impairments that make it more difficult for them to communicate. Even when those crimes are reported, those reports are less likely to lead to an arrest or conviction than when the victim is younger, according to a study by the National Institute of Justice.
In Maine, employees of nursing homes and assisted living residences are required to report any incidences of abuse to the state. People who are found to have abused residents are not allowed to work in any licensed facility in the state.
Cynthia Plante, a Smithfield resident whose 87-year-old mother has lived at Sunset Home for two years, said their xperiences at Sunset have been positive.
“My general impression is that it’s a lovely, lovely place,” she said. “Many women have said, ‘If you can’t live at home, this is where you want to be.’”
She said the police investigation demonstrates that possible instances of abuse are taken seriously at Sunset.
“My basic faith in that place as a wonderful residence has not changed at all,” she said.Matt Hongoltz-Hetling — 861-9287 firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @hh_matt