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Nursing Home Abuse Common – But It’s Not Always The Staffers

We all know nursing home abuse is far too common in elder care facilities across the U.S. But a new study suggests it’s not only the staffers that residents and their families have to fear. 

Reuters reports that researchers with Weill Cornell Medicine revealed the startling commonality of resident-on-resident nursing home abuse.

Of the 2,011 nursing home residents they tracked, 407 had been involved in at least one incident of abuse that involved another resident over the course of four weeks. That’s right, in just one month, 1 in every 5 residents suffered a resident-on-resident abuse incident.

Many of these cases involved verbal taunts, which were to blame in nearly half of the reported cases. However, physical assaults comprised 26 percent of the reported incidents. What’s more, these were only the incidents that were reported to researchers. There may be many more about which we do not know.

In particular, sexual abuse suffered by nursing home residents at the hands of other nursing home residents is far under-reported. Of course, that goes for all sexual assaults.  In this case, it accounted for about 3 percent of all reported incidents. One must consider that victimized residents in these situations may have heightened fear for their safety, as the perpetrator may be someone with whom they have regular contact and who may have a degree of control over the victim. Beyond that, many victims suffer from dementia or other conditions that can make reporting such incidents difficult or  impossible. In fact, it’s those type of conditions that make victims especially vulnerable to such abuse in the first place.

Researchers say the majority of interpersonal aggression (excluding sexual assaults) arises from the fact that people are for the first time in decades – and maybe ever – abruptly moved into a communal living atmosphere. Many of these individuals suffer nuerodegenerative illnesses, including dementia, and that can contribute to a sense of confusion, agitation and aggression. In fact, while we often think of dementia as being primarily an issue with loss of memory and cognition, most often what lands people in nursing home care in the first place are the behavioral problems wrought by the disease. So when many people suffering these same types of issues are all living together in one location, that’s where it gets to be problematic.

The study authors assessed the prevalence of abuse in these cases by interviewing both residents and staffers at five suburban and five urban nursing homes in the state of New York. They also culled data from incident reports, accident reports and medical charts. Researchers also sought input from residents’ family members and legal guardians where those individuals may have language barriers or health issues that would make it difficult for those individuals to participate.

The most common type of resident-on-resident nursing home abuse in terms of physical aggression was pushing or hitting.

What was especially troubling was the fact that most nursing homes did not have adequate staff or training to adequately and safely deal with older adults suffering psychiatric and cognitive issues.

In these cases, it was found nursing homes were more likely to turn to physical restraints or chemical sedation, an approach the researchers criticized.

The study was published in the latest issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine.

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Additional Resources:

One in five nursing home residents abused by other residents, June 13, 2016, By Lisa Rapaport, Reuters

More Blog Entries:

Maree v. Neuwirth – Complex Nursing Home Abuse Structure Can Thwart Lawsuits, June 26, 2016, Orlando Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer Blog

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