Nursing Home Abuse Between Residents A Common Occurence: Study

Almost one-in-five elderly nursing home residents are abused every month by other individuals living in the same facility, according to the findings of a new study. 

Researchers from Wiell Cornell say the rates of nursing home abuse between residents is higher than previously expected.

While most elder rights and nursing home safety advocates tend to focus on physical abuse by staff members directed toward residents, this latest study looks at incidents where one resident abuses another nursing home resident.

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The study discovered that verbal and physical abuse, as well as inappropriate sexual behavior, invasion of privacy and other forms of mistreatment between residents was common. Their findings were presented in a press briefing on November 6, at the Gerontological Society of America (GSA) Annual Scientific Meedint in Washington.

Using multiple methods of data collection, including interviews with nursing home staff, direct observation, questionnaires and incident reports, the researchers determined that 19.8% of nursing home residents experienced resident-to-resident mistreatment over just a four-week period.

The most common types of incidents were verbal abuse, such as cursing, screaming and yelling, followed by unwelcome entry into rooms and going through residents’ possessions. However, 5.7% reported actually being physically assaulted with hitting, kicking or biting, and another 1.3% reported sexual abuse, including unwanted genital contact, or other inappropriate touching and attempts to gain sexual favors.

“This is the first study to directly observe and interview residents to determine the prevalence and predictors of elder mistreatment between residents in nursing homes,” Dr. Karl Pillemer, professor of gerontology at Weill Cornell and a co-author of the study, said in a press release. “The findings suggest that these altercations are widespread and common in everyday nursing home life. Despite the acute urgency of the problem, resident-to-resident mistreatment is under-reported. Increase awareness and the adoption of effective interventions are greatly needed.”

The researchers found that perpetrators of these incidents tended to be younger, less impaired overall and more likely to be involve in disruptive behavior than their peers. However, they were likely to have some cognitive disability. The researchers also found that African Americans were less likely to be involved in resident-on-resident mistreatment than Latinos or non-Latino whites. They found no significant difference in rates of incidents between genders.

The researchers called for new strategies to address resident-on-resident mistreatment and urged nursing homes to educate and train staff to recognize and report such incidents and to give them guidelines on how to handle such incidents when they occur.

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