Donald Lewis Midgett, a 72-year-old current resident at Grand Oaks Health and Rehabilitation Center on Palm Coast Parkway, was booked at the Flagler County jail on a felony charge of molesting a 97-year-old resident with Alzheimer’s disease. Midgett is being held on $50,000 bond.
A 35-year-old woman was on a conference call in a hall not far from where Midgett and the alleged victim were in a room when the 35 year old noticed that Midgett had his hand in the pants of the older woman, who was born in 1922. The 35 year old confronted Midgett, who took his hand out and said he hadn’t been doing anything. The Grand Oaks staff placed Midgett under surveillance and the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office called.
The staff at Grand Oaks told a deputy that Midgett has intact cognition based on a test and would have been aware of his actions. Midgett told a deputy that he and the alleged victim had always been close, just not romantically so, and that she always “responded to him,” in his words, even if not verbally so. He said she liked it when he held her. He conceded that he may have touched her but made a distinction: he had not fondled her–and that he’d touched her in the past in the same way and she’d never said no, which he took to mean consent.
He claimed it had never been brought to his attention that the alleged victim had Alzheimer’s or that she was 97. He was only aware that she was older, he claimed. The alleged victim herself was “incoherent” when the deputy spoke with her, “and not aware of what was going on,” as is usually the case with individuals past a certain stage with Alzheimer’s. The victim “kept complimenting my nails and when asked general questions, she laughed and looked at [a staffer] and I,” the deputy reported. Due to her condition, no further questions were asked.
Both Midgett’s and the woman’s family were to be contacted by authorities, as was the Department of Children and Families. The alleged victim, the deputy reported, “is both an elderly and disabled person. [Midgett] should have known that [the alleged victim] lacked the capacity to consent to his actions and failed to give consent.”
He was charged with lewd and lascivious molestation of an elderly, disabled adult, a third-degree felony.
A Department of Justice research report found that “Elders with dementia, compared to those without a diagnosis, were abused more often by persons known to them (family member, caregiver or another nursing home resident) than a stranger, presented behavior cues of distress rather than verbal disclosures, were easily confused and verbally manipulated, and pressured into sex by the mere presence of the offender. Suspects, who were identified as abusing elders with dementia, had less chance of being arrested, indicted or having the case plea-bargained.”
Issued in 2006, the report found that 93 percent of victims were women while offenders ranged in age from 13 to 90, with the mean age of victims, in a sample of 284 cases studied, at 78.8 years. A more recent review study specific to the sexual abuse of residents at nursing homes, published in 2015, found that 0.6 percent of residents are exposed to sexual abuse either by other residents or by facility staffers. “Residents in nursing homes are particularly vulnerable and at risk of abuse because they are more or less dependent on their caregivers owing to chronic illnesses, especially those with cognitive and behavioral problems,” the study found.
“Despite an increasing literature related to elder abuse, sexual abuse of older persons in general and of vulnerable adults living in nursing homes in particular is still sparsely described,” the study authors noted.