nursing homeOne of a family’s worst nightmares is their loved one suffering abuse in a nursing home or assisted living facility. Abuse can come from staff members, but a more common source of abuse may actually be other residents. Researchers believe that despite the prevalence of the problem, resident-on-resident abuse is underreported.

A 2014 study by Cornell University-Weill Cornell Medical College found that one in five nursing home residents in 10 New York state facilities were involved in at least one aggressive encounter with fellow residents. Resident-on-resident abuse can take the form of verbal, physical or sexual abuse, or unwelcome entry into another resident’s room.  In some rare instances, the abuse can be fatal

Perpetrators of aggressive behavior tend to be residents who are somewhat cognitively impaired or suffer from a mood disorder. According to Karl Pillemer, a professor of gerontology and co-author of the study, “Given that nursing homes are environments where people live close together, and many residents have lowered inhibitions because of dementia, such incidents are not surprising.” The authors of the study called for education of nursing home staff members to be able to recognize when incidents occur.

Federal nursing home law gives nursing home residents the right to be free from abuse, including abuse from fellow residents. If you or a loved one is having a problem with another nursing home resident, there are steps you can take. The National Consumer Voice for Quality Long Term Care has put together a fact sheet with information to help residents identify and deal with abuse. Some options for reporting include telling the facility administrator or staff, contacting the local long-term care ombudsman, or contacting the state regulatory agency.

Assisted living facilities are regulated by the states. While regulations vary, residents in assisted living facilities can also report abuse to the long-term care ombudsman in their state or to the state regulatory agency.

For the fact sheet from The National Consumer Voice, click here

For information about the study, click here