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Who Abuses Nursing Home Residents? You Might Be Surprised

A study of nursing home abuse found that nearly 20 percent of incidents in nursing homes are part of an “epidemic of resident-to-resident hostile behavior.”

Nursing home residents don’t always get along. In fact, a study of nursing home abuse found that nearly 20 percent of incidents in nursing homes are part of an “epidemic of resident-to-resident hostile behavior.”

Researchers at Cornell University-Weill Cornell Medical College found that 19.8 percent of nursing home residents surveyed had been subjected during the previous month to what the researchers called “resident-to-resident elder mistreatment,” including verbal, physical or sexual abuse.

As the New York Times reports, the researchers spent five years observing and interviewing more than 2,000 residents at 10 nursing homes. They also interviewed staff, read incident reports and asked residents and staff members to complete a research-based questionnaire.

The findings were startling. Residents reported that fellow residents had subjected them to:

Type of MistreatmentPct.
Verbal incidents (shouting, screaming, yelling)16%
Intrusions on privacy (unwelcome entry, going through items)10.5%
Physical incidents (hitting, kicking, biting)5.7%
Sexual incidents (touching, exposing one’s genitals)1.3%

Protect Your Loved One in a New Jersey or New York Nursing Home

If your loved one resides in a nursing home – and you did not recognize that resident-on-reside abuse could happen to him or her – you are not alone. Karl Pillemer, the Cornell University gerontologist who led the study, told the Times that he and his fellow researchers were stunned by their findings as well.

“We were shocked by how extensive this was,” Pillemer said. “It’s a feature of nursing home life, something that occurs daily, that staff and residents almost take for granted.”

With that said, you can take steps to keep this type of abuse from happening to a nursing home resident you care about. These steps include:

Visit – You should visit the nursing home frequently.

  • Visit – You should visit the nursing home frequently. Instead of going at the same time or on the same day, mix it up. Make an unexpected visit. You may be able to catch those who are mistreating your family member in the act. You could also sense a tension in the air that indicates something is amiss.
  • Express your concerns – Ask your loved one about life in the nursing home. What does he or she do during the day? How does your loved one get along with other residents? Look for signs of physical abuse as well as indicators of emotional abuse, including unexplained withdrawal from normal activities, sudden changes in alertness and unusual depression.

Report your findings – Talk to the nursing home administrator, social worker or a staff person about any signs of suspected abuse or mistreatment that you have noticed.

  • Report your findings – Talk to the nursing home administrator, social worker or a staff person about any signs of suspected abuse or mistreatment that you have noticed. Be calm. Don’t make accusations. If your concerns are not sufficiently addressed by the nursing home, contact your local Long-Term Care Ombudsman in New Jersey or New York. An ombudsman is employed to advocate on behalf of residents of long-term care facilities and to help resolve complaints about care issues. The ombudsman can advise you and help you to file a formal complaint against the nursing home (if appropriate).
  • Act in an emergency – If you believe your loved one or any nursing home resident is in imminent danger, contact local law enforcement and/or emergency responders. In other words, call 911 without delay. The willful intent to hurt someone or to allow someone to be hurt is a crime.
  • Educate your self – The National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) website features a variety of resources about elder abuse, neglect and exploitation. You can also call (855) 500-3537 or read this brochure about resident-on-resident abuse.

Get Legal Help to Protect Your Loved One

Nursing home residents have rights, including the right to be treated with dignity and respect. Administrators at every nursing home have a legal obligation to ensure that the rights of residents under their care are upheld, and their well-being is ensured. It is unacceptable for a nursing home staff to neglect addressing mistreatment of residents – whether it is abuse by other residents, staff or anyone else.

At Davis, Saperstein & Salomon, P.C., our attorneys are dedicated to representing nursing home residents and the families of residents who have been abused or neglected, including those who have been abused by fellow residents.

Contact us right away if you have any questions about your loved one’s well-being in a nursing home. We will be happy to discuss your concerns and advise you of potential legal actions you can take.

In some cases, just a call, letter or visit from an attorney will prompt a nursing home administrator to shake up their staff and do what is right by residents. In other cases, we can help you and your loved one to seek compensation for a nursing home resident’s injuries and losses. We can also assist with moving your loved one to a safer facility.