New study reveals unlikely source of nursing home abuse

A recent U.S. study suggests that at least one in five nursing home residents will endure verbal or physical abuse from the other residents they live with and it will negatively affect their lives.

Researchers in New York have tracked reports of resident-to-resident mistreatment over a one-month period at ten separate nursing homes and of the 2,011 residents included in the study, 407 said they experienced at least one abusive event over the course of the four-week study. That is over 20% of residents.

The abuses range from rifling through another’s belongings, verbal threats, and harassment, and being run over by a wheelchair to instances of physical violence and sexual abuse.

Why is This Happening?

Residents with behavioral symptoms related to dementia or other cognitive impairment may be disruptive to others.

Results show that a resident’s level of cognitive impairment, whether they lived in a dementia unit, and higher nurse aide caseload were all factors linked to the high rates of resident-on-resident mistreatment.

With efforts to curb nursing home abuse targeted mainly at staff-on-resident mistreatment, resident-on-resident abuse is being overlooked. These incidents are equally as dangerous and can lead to serious injury, and in some cases even death.

How to Identify Resident to Resident Mistreatment

The most common symptoms that another resident is abusing your loved one include:

  • Withdrawal from social activities and family visits
  • Unexplained bruising
  • Changes in sleep pattern
  • Increased anxiety

The Importance of Reporting Nursing Home Abuse

Two reasons why victims of nursing home abuse by other residents may be fearful to report incidents of abuse are fear of retaliation or lack of cognitive ability. Talking to your loved one with open communication is the best way to protect him or her.

What Nursing Homes Can Do to Help

According to lead study author Dr. Mark Lachs, most of the aggression between residents is because residents, many of whom have dementia and other neurodegenerative illnesses, are being placed in communal living environments for the first time in a long time, if ever. Lachs is a researcher at Weill Cornell Medicine and director of geriatrics at New York-Presbyterian Health Care System.

Lachs suggests providers make small changes to living spaces, such as better lighting and less noise, which can aggravate some patients.

There is no one single way to get an upset resident to calm down. If a negative situation is taking place, it would be best to remove any unnecessary people from the room to decrease stimuli. Having bystanders will only escalate the situation. Staff members need to have patience and remain calm.

How The Carlson Law Firm Can Help

If someone you love has experienced elder abuse while living in a nursing home or skilled nursing facility, contact The Carlson Law Firm today. We have a team of attorneys who are experienced in the complex world of nursing home litigation who are ready to assist you with your legal needs. Someone from our team is available to speak with you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.



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