Study Shows Resident-on-Resident Abuse Common in Nursing Homes

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When selecting a nursing home or long-term care facility for a loved one, most families focus on the quality of staffing, available medical services and amenities. However, a new study suggests another area of concern when vetting assisted living care centers: the rates of resident-on-resident abuse.

Various types of hostile, inappropriate and disruptive behavior are shockingly common in skilled nursing facilities, warn the researchers who surveyed 2,000 residents living in New York nursing homes.

The team from Weill Cornell Medical College discovered that minor altercations between residents, including verbal attacks, shoving, hitting or theft from another, sometimes escalated into serious physical assaults. In fact, the researchers found that one in every five residents experienced some sort of violence or aggression every month at the hands of another resident.

Problem of resident-on-resident aggression tracked in study

Throughout their study, the researchers found common dynamics in residents who were frequently involved in aggressive or otherwise negative interactions with their co-habitants. Most suffered from cognitive disabilities, such as dementia or other mental illness that manifested in verbal or physical outbursts. And because many of these nursing home residents are relatively young and able-bodied, yet confined to limited spaces, they feel like prisoners — which only exacerbates the situation.

According to the study, offenses of resident-on-resident abuse ranged the gamut:

  • 16 percent of cases involved cursing or screaming
  • Almost 6 percent were involved in biting, kicking or hitting
  • Less than 2 percent of cases included untoward sexual advances
  • Over 10 percent of residents had their rooms pilfered by another resident
  • Various instances of throwing objects, spitting and scratching were recorded

The researchers noted that it was difficult to separate the perpetrators from the victims in these cases, since many are mentally disabled. Recognizing the early triggers for outbursts is crucial, according to the authors, who suggest better guidelines for caretakers on the front lines. Recommendations include more quality social interaction time and increased physical activity for residents, which may help them reduce anxiety levels, sleep better and act out less frequently.

Risk factors identified for resident-on-resident mistreatment

Among the nursing homes with higher rates of resident-on-resident aggression reported, the following characteristics were shared:

  • Care takers became desensitized to aggression, viewing abuse as normal behavior
  • Facilities were understaffed
  • Nursing home was crowded, affording less private space
  • Understaffing and low staff-to-resident ratios were common.
  • Conflicts among residents were more likely to go unresolved

Legal rights afforded to victims

Fortunately, legal rights are afforded to victims and their families, whether the aggression, neglect or mistreatment was from another resident or a paid caretaker. Skilled nursing home facilities may be held responsible if a resident suffers harm or dies as a result of inadequate staffing, poorly trained caretakers or negligent hiring that directly led to physical, emotional or financial injury.

If you suspect that a loved one at a nursing home is being neglected or abused by another resident or staff member, it is likely that other residents are suffering the same fate. To discuss your options for legal recourse with South Carolina nursing home abuse lawyer Michael Jeffcoat, please call (803) 200-2000 to set up a free case evaluation.

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