Study Finds High Rate of Abuse Among Residents in Nursing Homes

Study Finds High Rate of Abuse Among Residents in Nursing Homes

Posted By The Maher Law Firm || 24-Nov-2014

Orlando nursing home abuse

We tend to think of a nursing home's staff members as the culprits when we hear about nursing home abuse and neglect. However, a new study finds that abusive behavior among elderly nursing home residents is actually widespread.

What is purported to be the first study of aggression among residents of U.S. nursing homes has found that almost one in five people who live in long-term care facilities are involved in at least one aggressive encounter every four weeks.

Study Identifies Different Types of Resident-on-Resident Abuse

Researchers at the Cornell University-Weill Cornell Medical College studied 10 nursing homes across New York State. The survey involved 2,000 residents and included staff interviews and reports, direct observation and a research-based questionnaire taken by residents and staff, according to the Cornell Chronicle.

Specific types of resident-to-resident mistreatment identified by researchers included:

  • Verbal incidents such as cursing, screaming or yelling at another person (16 percent)
  • Physical incidents such as hitting, kicking or biting (5.7 percent)
  • Sexual incidents such as exposing one's genitals, touching other residents or attempting to gain sexual favors (1.3 percent).
  • Unwelcome entry into another resident's room or going through another resident's possessions (10.5 percent).

"These altercations are widespread and common in everyday nursing home life," said Karl Pillemer, the Hazel E. Reed Professor in the College of Human Ecology's Department of Human Development, who also serves on the Weill Cornell faculty.

"Despite the acute urgency of the problem, resident-to-resident mistreatment is underreported. Increased awareness and the adoption of effective interventions are greatly needed," he said.

Nursing home residents who typically engage in abuse of fellow residents are comparatively younger, somewhat cognitively disabled but physically capable of moving around the facility, Pillemer told a gerontology conference, where the study was initially presented, according to the Chronicle.

"Often, their underlying dementia or mood disorder can manifest as verbally or physically aggressive behavior," he said. "It's no surprise that these individuals are more likely to partake in arguments, shouting matches, and pushing and shoving, particularly in such close, crowded quarters."

Study Should Bring Attention to Growing Problem in Nursing Homes

There are almost 1.4 million nursing home residents in the U.S., with more than 72,000 of them in Florida, the Herald-Tribune of Sarasota states in its report about the study.

Crowded conditions, ongoing conflicts between roommates and nursing home staffing levels may contribute to the incidence of elder-to-elder abuse.

"The amount of residents each staff member has to care for relates to the rate of abuse," Pillemer said.

As WBUR of Boston points out in its report about the Cornell study, abuse and mistreatment of the elderly in general - in their homes and in nursing facilities - is a serious and growing problem.

For instance, one survey of certified nursing assistants in nursing homes found that 17 percent of CNAs had physically abused residents, 51 percent had yelled at them and 23 percent had insulted or sworn at them.

According to the Herald-Tribune, Pillemer said that collecting data is the "first step toward bringing attention to this under-the-radar reality that too many facility operators view as business as usual."

The Maher Law Firm assists individuals and families affected by nursing home abuse. If you believe a loved one of yours has been treated improperly in a Florida nursing home, assisted care facility or while under other residential care, please contact us. We can discuss your case and your options in a free legal consultation.

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