Study Finds Nursing Home Abuse Occurs Between Residents
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New Study Finds Nursing Home Abuse Occurs between Residents

Helping Grandmother WalkWhile many worry about the potential for caregiver abuse when placing loved ones in nursing homes, resident-to-resident aggression should also be a concern.

According to a recent study, as many as 20 percent of residents of nursing home facilities may be victims of aggression at the hands of another resident every single month.

Hundreds interviewed in NY facilities

Researchers at the Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City obtained their data by interviewing around 2,000 people living in skilled nursing care in the state of New York. The purpose of the survey was to track disruptive, hostile and inappropriate behavior between residents. The researchers found this type of behavior was much more common than originally thought, with as many as one in five residents experiencing such behavior.

Karl Pillemer, the Hazel E. Reed Professor in the College of Human Ecology’s Department of Human Development and a member of the faculty at Weill Cornell, described the altercations as “widespread and common.” Pillemer also stated in a report by the campus media, “Despite the acute urgency of the problem, resident-to-resident mistreatment is underreported. Increased awareness and the adoption of effective interventions are greatly needed.”

Types of nursing home abuse

The study found that resident-to-resident aggression could take on many forms.

Some of the troubling statistics revealed by the study included:

  • A large number (more than 10 percent) of nursing home residents experienced unwelcome entry into their rooms by another resident
  • Approximately 16 percent of the cases of aggression involved screaming or swearing at others
  • Nearly six percent of residents were involved in incidents concerning hitting, biting or kicking
  • Various instances of spitting, scratching and throwing things were reported
  • Less than two percent of resident-on-resident abuse incidents involved inappropriate exposure of genitals or unwanted sexual advances

Researchers that conducted the study were quick to point out that nursing home staff was not always responsible for these incidents. However, the team also made recommendations on how these incidents may be avoided, based on common denominators seen in many of the issues. For example, acts of aggression were more common in facilities where residents had less personal space. They were also more prevalent when facilities were understaffed or when ongoing conflicts among residents remain unaddressed.

Incidents also tended to occur more with younger patients who have cognitive issues like dementia. This is particularly true of patients that do not have sufficient social interaction or physical activity. Staff at the nursing home that failed to resolve conflicts among patrons in a satisfactory fashion, or those that had become desensitized to aggression, were more likely to see their residents act in a hostile fashion toward one another.

First study of its kind

According to researchers, this study was the first of its kind to “directly observe and interview residents to determine the prevalence and predictors of elder mistreatment between residents in nursing homes.” The authors of the study are hoping nursing homes will be able to use this data to help ensure the health and safety of the more than 1.3 million residents of nursing homes. That number comes from the Family Caregiver Alliance, which also stated that the number of individuals in nursing homes is likely to double between now and 1950.

Nursing home abuse is a distressing problem for both the resident and family members. If you or a loved one has been the victim of nursing home abuse in New York, help is available. Contact the Sanders Firm today at 1.800.FAIR.PLAY for a free case evaluation and answers to all of your legal questions.


  1. The Buffalo News, Resident-on-Resident Abuse is Common Problem at Nursing Homes, http://www.buffalonews.com/life-arts/resident-on-resident-abuse-is-common-problem-at-nursing-homes-20151002

  2. Cornell Chronicles, Elder-to-Elder Abuse is Common in Nursing Homes, http://www.news.cornell.edu/stories/2014/11/elder-elder-abuse-common-nursing-homes

  3. Pub Med, Resident-to-Resident Abuse in Nursing Homes as Reported by Nurse Aides, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23016729

  4. Family Caregiver Alliance, Selected Long-Term Care Statistics, https://caregiver.org/selected-long-term-care-statistics