How Common is Resident to Resident Conflicts/Abuse in Nursing Homes?

Reuters reported on a new study published by the American College of Physicians in the "Annals of Internal Medicine" that found at least one in five nursing home residents may endure verbal or physical abuse from their roommates or other residents. http://annals.org/article.aspx?articleid=2528279&resultClick=3

As family or friends of a nursing home resident, you may be on the lookout for abuse from the staff or visitors and be very protective in making sure that your loved one receives the care promised at the time of admission. Unfortunately, as the study finds, abuse can come from other patients in the nursing home, and most often because they have no control over their actions.

In the study, researchers examined data on 2,011 nursing home residents and found 407 of them had been involved in at least once occurrence of abuse involving another resident during the four-week study period. To assess the prevalence of abuse involving residents, researchers examined data from interviews with staff and residents of five urban and five suburban nursing homes in New York, as well as information from medical charts and accident or incident reports.

Verbal taunts were the most common, accounting for about 45 percent of these cases, followed by physical assaults, which made up 26 percent of incidents. While verbal and physical abuse was the most commonly reported type of abuse residents suffered from other residents, about 20 percent of incidents involved invasion of privacy, researchers report.

In about 4 percent of cases, one resident directed menacing gestures or facial expressions at another resident. Slightly less than 3 percent of cases involved some form of sexual abuse. The most common types of verbal aggression were screaming at another resident and using inappropriate words. With physical aggression, the most common cases involved hitting or pushing another resident.

Most nursing homes do not have adequate staff and training to deal with older adults with cognitive and psychiatric issues like dementia, depression, and delirium. Incidents were more common in units with fewer certified nursing assistants - the staff who are responsible for residents' daily care. The study also found that incidents were more common in nursing homes' dementia units. On the other hand, one-quarter of residents with no dementia symptoms were involved in at least one incident.

So, how should you protect a loved one when this type of abuse or aggression? According to the Reuters article "Families should look for nursing homes with rooms or units set aside for dementia patients or residents prone to aggressive behaviors," according to Dr. Janice Du Mont, a public health researcher at the University of Toronto.

"During a tour, see if there is adequate open space or if the facility feels overcrowded. Assess how many residents are in each room, if there are separated recreational areas, and how many staff you see on duty."http://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-nursinghomes-abuse-idUSKCN0YZ2ED

Put special care in choosing a facility by observing how the patients are treated and monitored. Spend more than a few minutes walking the hall during your visit. Come back at different times over the same day. Extra time visiting will put a caregiver more at ease and, hopefully, lower the chance for abuse or aggression to happen to their loved ones.

If you or someone who is close to you has been a victim of abuse or aggression in a nursing home and you aren't getting adequate resolution, call Rich Hitz at Carlson & Burnett for a free consultation to learn how to investigate and understand your legal rights. Call Rich at (402) 952-4179.

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