Nursing Home Abuse Common Between Residents

Jul 06, 2016

Nursing home abuse occurs at an alarmingly high rate with many factors contributing to abuse, neglect, and exploitation.  While it is commonly assumed that most abuse occurs at the hands of care providers, new research shows that nursing home abuse is common between residents as well, and at a disturbing level.  In what is being called the first “large-scale systematic study“, researchers from the Center for Aging Research and Clinical Care say that one in five nursing home residents may suffer from some form of abuse at the hands of a roommate or fellow resident.

Old sad woman

Resident-To-Resident Abuse Research

Researchers with the Center for Aging Research and Clinical Care and Weill Cornell Medicine conducted research among 10 nursing homes in New York State.  In total, more than 2,000 residents took part in the study.  The purpose of the study was to highlight occurrences of nursing home mistreatment between residents specifically – an area of research thought to be lacking.  The research was completed via a series of interviews with residents, staff members, chart reviews, incident reports, observation, and shift coupons.  Following the guidelines from the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA), the study classified mistreatment as the following:

To further narrow the definition specific in resident-to-resident cases, this study, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, classified mistreatment as “negative and aggressive physical, sexual, or verbal interaction between long-term care residents that in a community setting would likely be construed as unwelcome and have high potential to cause physical or psychological distress in the recipient”.

How Common is Nursing Home Abuse Between Residents?

According to the new research, nursing home abuse between residents is actually quite common.  After concluding the New York study, researchers found that approximately 20 percent of nursing home residents surveyed had suffered some form of abuse or mistreatment at the hands of another resident.  The most common form of abuse was verbal accounting for three-quarters of all incidents. While physical and sexual aggression also ranked high, physical abuse in general only accounted for one-quarter of all incidents.

Of the 2,011 residents who participated in the study, 407 reported one or more instances of mistreatment during the month-long study – a rate which demands further attention and research on a nationwide level. The most common resident-to-resident mistreatment allegations included:

  • Verbal taunting/bullying
  • Invasion of privacy
  • Taking personal property without asking
  • Hitting or pushing another resident
  • Inappropriate sexual conduct

Nursing Home Abuse is a Nationwide Problem

The Administration for Community Living estimates that 5 million Americans suffer from elder abuse, neglect, or exploitation every year.  What is more striking is the estimation that for every one report filed, 23 more are unreported.  If the findings of the recent research in New York is any example, it may indicate that many resident-to-resident abuse cases are never formally reported or investigated.

There is also a need for more research on a nationwide level about training nursing home staff to manage resident-to-resident issues.  Nursing home staff and caregivers may not be properly trained to manage factors that may contribute to mistreatment, especially psychiatric and cognitive disorders like depression, delirium, dementia, and Alzheimer’s.  These disorders can contribute to feelings of anger, aggression, and impulsivity.  Experts recommend nursing home staff be trained in tactics like diversion, redirection, stress management, and relaxation techniques.

What You Can do to Protect Your Loved One

If you are considering placing an elderly loved one in a nursing home, or have already done so, this research may be particularly concerning.  While it is true that residents can be both perpetrators and victims, there are some steps that families can take to help protect their loved ones and ensure their safety.  Consider the following when choosing a nursing home or managing your loved one’s care:

  • Does the facility have separate areas designated for dementia patients, or patients suffering from cognitive disorders prone to aggression?
  • Does the facility have separate or multiple recreation areas to provide privacy and comfort for all residents?
  • How many residents are assigned to each bedroom/apartment?
  • How many staff members do you see when visiting? How many should be available at any given shift?
  • Research the facility online to find reviews, and check with the Better Business Bureau (BBB) and local advocacy groups for the elderly to find out if there are any serious violations or incident reports outstanding.
  • If you suspect that your loved one is being abused by another resident or a staff member, contact your local Adult Protective Services (APS), or contact the Eldercare Locator, a resource of local and state agencies offered by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration on Aging.
  • Contact an attorney who specializes in nursing home abuse cases to discuss the rights of your loved one, and your options to make sure they are safe.  Nursing home abuse is never okay, and it is important to get proper legal guidance when attempting to confront or hold facilities, staff members, or other residents accountable for mistreatment.

Contact the Attorneys that Work for You

If you need help protecting the rights of your elderly loved one, please consider contacting the attorneys at Brown Wharton & Brothers.  Our staff is more than just skilled and capable – we are passionate about protecting elderly Americans.  Our attorneys have successfully litigated nursing home abuse cases for clients in areas including malnutrition, neglect, medication errors, physical or sexual abuse, slip and fall injuries, unexplained injuries, aspiration pneumonia, burns, and wrongful death.

At Brown Wharton & Brothers, we understand the turmoil of seeing someone you love being abused or mistreated.  We treat every client and case with the utmost compassion, professionalism, and respect.  Contact us today to learn more about our office locations, practice areas, and to schedule your no-obligation case review.  Call us, or complete our online form, and one of our courteous staff members will contact you shortly.