Fellow residents: an often-overlooked source of nursing home abuse

On behalf of William Dean

Although many assume that all nursing home abuse is caused by staff members, a new study has found that resident-to-resident violence is a significant source.

When the media covers the topic of nursing home abuse, it tends to focus on instances where the nursing home resident was abused by a staff member of the facility. Although it is true that many incidents of nursing home abuse are caused by an overworked, undertrained or otherwise unsuitable employee, in many cases, abuse can occur because of the actions of a fellow nursing home resident. This fact was highlighted in a recent study.

The study, conducted by researchers from Cornell University, is the first of its kind to focus on the scope of negative aggression between nursing home residents. The study found that almost one-fifth of nursing home residents in the study experienced some form of resident-to-resident mistreatment during the four-week period that was the scope of the study. The mistreatment encountered by the residents ranged from minor incidents (having property rummaged through) to very serious ones, involving physical or sexual assault.

Specifically, of the 2,011 residents at the 10 nursing homes profiled during the study's four-week period, 19.8 percent of residents were victims of mistreatment from other residents. As to the specifics of the mistreatment, the study found:

• 10.5 percent of residents reported unwelcome or invasive behavior from another resident. This behavior included uninvited entry into the resident's room, unwelcome handling of the resident's property.

• 16 percent of residents said that they were subjected to verbal abuse (e.g. cursing, threats or screaming) during the four-week period.

• 5.7 percent reported physical attacks, such as biting, kicking, hitting and being knocked down.

• 1.3 percent revealed that they were sexually abused through unwanted touching, exposure or attempts to gain sexual favors.

The study found that certain factors influence the likelihood of resident-to-resident abuse. If the facility is crowded, residents are often housed in close quarters, which can raise antipathy towards each other. Also, it was determined that, unsurprisingly, facilities that are understaffed make this type of abuse more likely, since it is more difficult to adequately supervise the residents.

An attorney can help

Unfortunately, many nursing home facilities turn a blind eye towards resident-to-resident abuse out of fear of a negative publicity. Unfortunately, this means that the problem does not get the attention that it deserves and many residents continue to needlessly experience the harassment, degradation, lacerations, bruises, fractures and other serious injuries this kind of behavior brings.

Although another resident may be responsible for the violence and abuse, it does not mean that the nursing home facility is blameless. If there is evidence that the nursing home knew or should have known of the resident's dangerous or violent propensities, the facility can potentially be held liable for its failure to protect its other residents.

If your loved one has been the victim of abuse or unexplained injuries while in a nursing home, it is important to speak to an attorney as soon as possible. The experienced personal injury attorneys at Ford, Dean & Rotundo, P.A. can ensure that the causes of your loved one's injuries are thoroughly investigated and the responsible parties are held accountable.