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Report: Resident-on-Resident Abuse a Pervasive Problem in Nursing Homes

Most families in search of a trustworthy nursing home in which to place loved ones are acutely aware of the possible dangers of abuse or mistreatment by staff. What they may be less attuned to is the danger posed by other residents.

They should know it is the duty of the nursing home to be aware of this potential, to guard against it and to address it immediately when it becomes known.

However, a new investigative report by the Buffalo News/ New America Media reveals one in every five residents experiences at least some form of aggression by another resident every month. Some of these conflicts involve stealing personal items. Some involve invading personal space. Others may escalate into verbal attacks or cursing. There may be sexually aggressive behavior, or advances toward individuals who are unwilling or are not capable of reciprocating. In some cases, residents may suffer slaps, shoves and even more violent actions.

Researchers with the New York City Elder Abuse Center who queried some 2,000 nursing home patients in the New York area found:

  • Almost 6 percent were involved in some type of kicking, biting or hitting incident.
  • About 16 percent were involved in cases that involved cursing or screaming.
  • Roughly 2 percent were involved in unwanted sexual advances or behaviors.
  • More than 10 percent reported being victimized by individuals who entered their space uninvited or rifled through their possessions – an action that can trigger a violent response.

The report raises questions about how common this type of nursing home abuse is, and whether residents truly are safe from the actions of their fellow residents. It also makes us wonder what nursing home administrators are doing about it.

While these incidents may seem largely unpredictable, the fact is such injuries and affronts can be prevented, especially when facility directors examine what researchers identified as the factors that increase the risk. Those included:

  • Under-staffing and low staff-to-resident ratios
  • Less private space/ more crowded conditions
  • Staff members desensitized to conflict
  • Unresolved, ongoing conflicts that contribute to environment of hostility

Another interesting characteristic was that most of those involved tended to be mobile, yet suffered from some form of dementia or mental illness. The dementia or mood disorder can contribute to aggressive behavior – something the staff should know, anticipate and be trained to deal with.

When residents are limited in their movements, they may begin to feel like prisoners – even when it’s being done to protect them. It can provoke an aggressive response. This too is something nursing homes can work to avoid by giving residents as many choices as possible and tailoring their responses to individual residents as appropriate.

For example, researchers gave the example of a patient who wanders, resulting in conflict with other patients. Staffers should ask why the patient is wandering. Is he or she bored? Scared? Anxious? Addressing these issues by providing plenty of activities, calming reassurance, plenty of sleep, etc. can do wonders for some of these issues.

Because the aging population is only continuing to grow, these kinds of conflicts are going to continue to be a problem as nursing homes take on more and more patients. Those that fail to protect those in their charge should be held to account.

Call Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights. Now serving Orlando, West Palm Beach, Port St. Lucie and Fort Lauderdale.

Additional Resources:

$9 Million Lawsuit Against Nursing Home for Infection Leading to Amputation, Sept. 10, 2015, Orlando Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer Blog

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