Those who suffer mistreatment or neglect in nursing homes are often left with debilitating psychological and/or physical injuries. But elder abuse is not just a problem between patient and caregiver, a new study shows that physical, verbal and emotional abuse between residents is a growing problem in our nation’s assisted living facilities. According to research published in the June 2016 edition of Annals of Internal Medicine, 20 percent of nursing home patients have experienced some type of aggression at the hands of other residents.

The researchers focused on the incidence of verbal, physical and sexual abuse among 2,000 residents living in ten skilled nursing facilities within New York State. The study tracked rates of disruptive, aggressive and inappropriate behavior between residents – and found resident-to-resident elder mistreatment (R-REM) alarmingly prevalent.

Prevalence of resident-on-resident aggression

Higher rates of resident-to-resident aggression and mistreatment occurred among elders who suffer from neurodegenerative illnesses such as dementia and Alzheimer’s, or have severe levels of cognitive impairment.

Researchers used several modalities to measure prevalence of R-REM, including: observation, staff and patient interviews, chart reviews, and incident reports.

The incidents ranged from verbal taunts to events involving physical abuse:

  • Hitting, biting and kicking were reported among 16 percent of residents
  • Other residents were accused of spitting, scratching or throwing objects
  • 26 percent of reports included physical assaults such as hitting or pushing
  • 4 percent of cases involved menacing gestures
  • 16 percent of incidents involved cursing or screaming
  • 20 percent of reports included unwelcome entry into another resident’s room and/or pilfering through another’s personal belongings

While going through another person’s possessions may seem like a minor nuisance, this kind of behavior often triggers residents to lash out physically.

Nursing home abuse risk factors to look out for

Resident on resident mistreatment or aggression can happen in all kinds of assisted living facilities, whether large or small.

However, the following risk factors can increase the odds:

  • Nursing homes that are understaffed/have a low staff-to-patient ratio
  • Staff that is not adequately trained to handle patients with dementia or cognitive decline
  • Facilities that are overcrowded

Considering that resident on resident abuse can result in serious injury or even death, the researchers concluded that “strategies are urgently needed to better understand its causes so that prevention strategies can be developed.”

Nursing home caregivers must realize that acting out verbally or physically is a typical response to frustration caused by mental decline. Most dementia patients maintain a level of awareness, but they are slower to process information. In addition, a lot of these patients are living in an unfamiliar communal environment for the first time in ages, with limitations that can make them feel like prisoners.

Legal recourse for nursing home abuse available

If you suspect that a loved one or family member has suffered abuse or assault from another resident or caregiver, you can request a free evaluation to find out if a nursing home abuse lawsuit is warranted. For more than four decades, The Sanders Firm has been advocating for New York residents affected by nursing home abuse.

Learn more about your rights to compensation; contact our offices today to schedule a no-obligation case review with personal injury lawyers with a track record of success. Dial 1-800-FAIR-PLAY.