Lately, some high profile cases have put nursing home abuse in the spotlight. In most instances, the abuse was committed by employees, with management infamously failing at detecting, preventing, and reporting the misconduct to the authorities.
Resident on resident abuse attracts fewer headlines, but it is a nonetheless serious problem for America´s elderly and disabled population.
When nursing home management is negligent, both types of abuse can occur. Whether the abuse comes from staff or other residents, long-term care facilities can be held accountable, as it is their job to ensure the safety and well-being of all residents.
Nursing Home Management Negligence
A recent study based on responses from 2,011 nursing home residents found that over 20% of respondents were victims of abuse by another resident over a 4-week period. Nearly half of the incidents reported involved verbal abuse, and 26% included some form of physical abuse.
According to the study´s author, Dr. Mark Lachs, “Much (but not all) of interpersonal aggression in nursing homes stems from the fact that people, many of whom have dementia and other neurodegenerative illnesses, are being thrust into communal living environments for the first time in decades, if ever.” Lachs is Director of Geriatrics at New York Presbyterian Health Care System.
When people with different psychological problems and cognitive impairments are “thrust into” communal areas, nursing home staff should, in theory, ensure that no resident-on-resident abuse occurs.
To gather reliable data for the study, Lachs and his colleagues looked at incident reports and interviewed not only residents, but also staff and residents` family members.
Verbal Abuse, Physical Abuse & Sexual Abuse Incidents
Sexual abuse amounted to 3% of all reported abuse incidents over the course of the study´s 4-week duration. The most commonly observed types of physical abuse included hitting and pushing. As for verbal abuse, the most frequent types involved screaming and inappropriate language.
For anyone who has a relative at a nursing home, none of this may come as a surprise. Family members are used to trying as best they can to prevent abuse of their loved ones by problematic residents. Sometimes the unwelcome behavior has to do with invasion of privacy, people using someone´s personal items without asking for permission. Abuse can come in many forms, and according to findings by Lachs and his team, nursing homes are doing a poor job of protecting America´s most vulnerable population.
Aggression between Nursing Home Residents – Management Should Anticipate
After spending so much time analyzing these problems, Lachs has rather unambiguous views on the subject, "(Abusive) staff should be arrested, fired, and prosecuted. But aggression between residents needs to be given attention. You're probably at greater risk than from a staff member — but we just don't have good numbers on that yet," he has commented.
The researcher has made some recommendations about changes that could help reduce instances of resident-on-resident abuse. These include improving lighting, controlling overcrowding, and creating calmer and safer environments for residents with dementia.
Lachs also suggests that changing the culture of nursing homes could help enormously. As long as management is not taking abuse between residents seriously, very little can be done from the outside. Raising awareness is a big part of the picture, and everyone involved must take a stand, from government agencies to nursing home administrators, families, and communities.
In the meantime, nursing homes must be held accountable for allowing abuse to occur within their facilities, regardless of who the abusers may happen to be. Whether it be physical or verbal abuse, invasion of privacy, or sexual assault, nursing homes are responsible for keeping it at bay.
If you or a loved one is a victim of serious resident-on-resident nursing home abuse and the management is ignoring the problem, perhaps we can help. For a confidential no-cost conversation with a member of our legal team or to report nursing home abuse Call Us or Use our Online Report Form.