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Study Shows Nursing Home Residents Abusing Each Other

Garcia & Artigliere

Negligence or physical abuse at the hands of caretakers in nursing homes is not an uncommon headline, unfortunately. However, a new study from Weill Cornell Medical College reveals a new source of elder abuse within skilled nursing home facilities: fellow residents.

According to the new research, nearly one in five senior residents experienced at least one negative and aggressive act at the hands of other residents. This rate of abuse is much higher than previously believed or expected, the researchers said. The results were presented in early November at the annual Scientific Meeting of the Gerontological Society of America (GSA) in Washington.

Though the forms of abuse are myriad, the study found the following to be the most common types of abuse occurring between residents:

  • physical (e.g., biting, hitting, kicking)
  • verbal (e.g., yelling, cursing, screaming)
  • invasion of privacy (e.g., residents entering rooms without permission or rummaging through others’ personal items)
  • inappropriate sexual behavior (e.g., unwanted touching or residents looking to receive sexual favors)

The study interviewed staff, used observation, administered questionnaires and reviewed incident reports for data to analyze. Around 19.8 percent of nursing home residents experienced some form of abusive behavior by a fellow resident in a four-week time frame.

Around 5.7 percent said they had been physically abused. Around 1.3 percent said sexual abuse had occurred. Verbal incidents occurred 16 percent of the time. Unwelcomed entry into a resident’s room occurred 10.5 percent of the time.

The residents who abused other residents tended to be younger and have less impairment, generally speaking. However, they were likely to have some sort of mental disability. Latinos or non-Latino white people were more involved in abuse than black residents. Gender did not seem to be a factor in abusive situations, according to the results.

Researchers stated that the study was the first ever to use direct observation and interviews with residents to discover the occurrence rate of resident-on-resident elder abuse or mistreatment. Their findings, researchers said, suggest that such abuse is quite common in nursing home facilities and that is it is a widespread problem. The problem remains underreported, so increased awareness of the issue is imperative in helping with prevention, they stressed.

The authors of the study hope that nursing homes will now be more aware of this often under-discussed source of abuse in care facilities. New preventative measures must be taken to avoid such unnecessary abuse. Nursing home caretakers and nurses need to be aware of how to handle these situations if they are seen and also how to report them effectively.

If you believe a loved one has been a victim of abuse or negligence within a nursing home, please call our elder abuse attorneys at Garcia & Artigliere at (800) 328-2630. We’ve handled nursing home abuse cases from around the country. Let us help you today.


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