Nursing home abuse is a prevalent problem in the United States, but the source may be surprising. A recent study found that one out of every five residents in nursing homes today has suffered physical or verbal abuse from other residents.
Approximately five million aging Americans are victims of different types of elder abuse every year, according to the Administration for Community Living, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It is difficult to accurately track the amount of abuse that occurs, since victims are not typically the ones to report the problem. In most cases, the reports come from witnesses that have noted visible signs of abuse. Experts believe that for every abuse case that is reported, as many as 23 could go unreported. According attorneys at The Sanders Firm, a well-known, national personal injury law firm, nursing home abuse is on the rise and nursing home owners can be held accountable.
Mistreatment leads to psychological & physical injury
Researchers in this study attempted to get a more accurate idea of the level of resident-to-resident abuse that occurs in nursing homes today. The results, which were published in the August 2016 edition of the Annals of Internal Medicine, found that resident-to-resident abuse is “highly prevalent.” It is a concerning finding in light of the fact that such mistreatment can lead to psychological and physical injury to many nursing home residents.
Dr. Mark Lachs, the lead author of the study, and colleagues from the Center for Aging Research and Clinical Care at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York, evaluated ten New York nursing homes over the period of one month. Half of the nursing homes were in urban areas, while the other half were located in suburban communities. More than 2,000 nursing home residents were involved in the study.
The researchers found that of the 2,011 residents included, 407 experienced at least one incident of abuse from another resident. Types of mistreatment included verbal abuse, physical aggression and sexual abuse. Violation of privacy was also a problem, such as a resident entering another resident’s room without permission.
Additional training, education needed in nursing homes
Lachs concluded that more research on resident-to-resident abuse is necessary in order to develop effective solutions. Some examples might be improving lighting throughout the nursing home or reducing noise that could aggravate some residents. These suggestions might be particularly helpful in dementia units, where much of the mistreatment appears to take place.
Lachs also suggests that nursing home staff could be trained to reduce aggressive and abusive acts by learning how to respond to aggravated residents rather than ignoring them. He points out that by creating a culture in schools where bullying is not acceptable, the problem of bullying is becoming better managed. He believes the same could occur in regards to general thinking about nursing home abuse.
“I don’t want to frame this as a criminal issue,” Lachs stated. “I want to frame it as more of an educational issue.”