A Common Form of Nursing Home Abuse that has Come to Surface


Regardless of whether or not you personally have a loved one or family member in a nursing home, most of us are aware of the unfortunate elder abuse that can take place. Commonly, it happens financially, physically, sexually, and emotionally. However, another form of abuse found in nursing homes which has slowly been revealed – Bullying.  

Mistreatment by other residents

A new study shows that it is increasingly common for older folks in nursing homes to be abused by other residents.

Dr. Mark Lachs shares that over twenty percent of the people living in nursing homes have suffered from this type of abuse. Dr. Lachs and his colleagues from Weill Cornell Medicine in New York conducted the first large-scale, systematic study of its kind looking at resident-to-resident abuse.

Of the 2,011 residents in 10 nursing homes, 407 (20.2 percent) reported at least one resident-to-resident incident of mistreatment. About one in five have experienced verbal or physical mistreatment from other residents. Dr. Lachs said that aside from the physical injuries that can come from the resident abuse, the emotional toll can be “extremely overwhelming.”

Resident-to-resident abuse defined

The abuse that took place in this form included any unwelcome behavior that had the potential to lead to physical or psychological distress of the person on the receiving end.

Over 9 percent of the victims were mistreated verbally, while roughly 5 percent were abused physically. Common types of verbal abuse were screaming, name calling and foul language. Physical aggression included thrown objects, threatening gestures, and even being run over by a wheelchair.

Dr. Karl Pillemer, the Hazel E. Reed Professor in the Department of Human Development at Cornell University, said that he was very surprised by the “prevalence of aggression.” While they thought it would be common, they did not think that it would be as common as it is.

Causing and preventing resident abuse

Dr. Pillemer, director of the Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research at Cornell, said that a major factor for aggression was cognitive impairment. Much of the resident-to-resident abuse stems from those who suffer from dementia and other neurodegenerative illnesses, who are being placed into communal living for the first time in decades.

Crowding in communal spaces, such as hallways, lounge rooms or the cafeteria, increased the risk of an episode taking place. Resident-to-resident conflict, seemed to take place more often in the colder months – most likely due to the fact that nursing home residents had limited time outdoors.

More research needs to be done on ways to prevent these incidences from occurring, but Alzheimer’s Association experts recommend limiting distractions in residents’ surroundings. The optimal environment should feel like a home would. Nursing homes should provide optimal lighting, pleasant music, and multiple times to eat and drink. When available, private rooms and bathrooms should be provided.

When too many people are asked to share common spaces, conflicts are more likely to occur. If nursing homes can find a way to mitigate this, we might see a reduction in resident-to-resident abuse.

Speak Up

Dansky | Katz | Ringold is one of the few New Jersey Law firms to focus
a significant part of its practice on representing victims of nursing home abuse and neglect. To arrange a free consultation to discuss your nursing home claim, please visit us here or call our toll free number: 800-609-7577.