When we think of nursing home abuse, perhaps the first thing that comes to mind may be an undertrained, uncaring staff member who may verbally abuse a resident or be rough on the resident when moving the resident from a wheelchair to a bed. Certainly, these incidents, and much worse, occur from staff members.
What probably does not come to mind is that significant abuse comes not from staff members, but from other residents.
In a new report, a U.S. study found that at least one in five nursing home residents had suffered at least one incidence of abuse during the four weeks during which the study was conducted. This study included data on 2,011 nursing home residents, of which 407 had been abused. The findings of this study were discussed in the article One in five nursing home residents abused by other residents published by Reuters Health.
The categories of abuse included the following:
- Verbal taunts – about 45% of the cases
- Physical assaults – about 26% of the incidents
- Others – 8% (including sexual abuse, at about 3%)
The most common forms of verbal abuse were screaming and inappropriate words, and the most common physical abuse involved hitting or pushing. Other forms of abuse – such as entering a resident’s room without permission or taking a resident’s property – were also common. The average age of the person being abused was 84 years old (about 73% of the victims were women).
Many of those in nursing homes suffer from cognitive and psychiatric conditions, including Alzheimer’s, dementia, depression, and other psychosis. It’s likely that residents with these conditions may be at a greater risk to other residents. For example, a person with a psychiatric condition may believe that another resident it out to do them hard. A resident with Alzheimer’s may think that they are going into their own room or taking their own property, when in fact this is not the case.
The conditions in which residents live may also be a contributing factor for abuse. Residents sharing a small room with another resident may be at an increased risk of being abused than a resident who has their own room.
What Can Families Do?
When considering a long-term care facility, be vigilant to check out the entire conditions of the facility. Are there enough staff members on hand to ensure that abuse does not occur? Are there any situations that might contribute to increased abuse?
The Liability of Nursing Homes for Abuse Perpetrated by Another Resident
If a nursing home is abused by another resident, the nursing home may be liable for the abuse that occurred. The nursing home has a duty to make the conditions safe for all who live there. Unfortunately they do not always fulfill this commitment.
Certainly, the propensity of some residents to be abusive is well known, especially in cases where residents have mental or cognitive issues that are manifested in violence or anger. While these residents may have little or no control over their actions, certainly the nursing home has a duty to not allow these residents to be put in situations where other residents may be harmed. The failure to prevent abuse, and to not recognize ongoing situations in which one resident may be abusing another, can lead to legal liability for any injuries or harm done.
If your loved one has been harmed or abused by another resident or by a staff member, please call our firm to learn about the rights that you and your loved one may have.