Nursing Home Residents Don’t Always Play Nice

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When families are confronted with the decision of placing an aging loved one in a nursing home, common concerns center on the quality of the facility's amenities and staff. The ultimate question: Can I trust these people to take care of my loved one?

But, according to a group of Cornell researchers, there could be another potential danger to living in a nursing home that caregivers shouldn't overlook: the other residents.

Every month, as many as 20 percent of older Americans who live in nursing homes are subjected to seriously bad behavior from one of their fellow residents, such as physical and verbal abuse, privacy invasions or unwanted sexual attention. "The findings suggest that these altercations are widespread and common in everyday nursing home life," says study co-author Karl Pillemer, Ph.D., professor of gerontology in medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College in a press release.

The role of dementia

Much of the resident-to-resident mistreatment (16 percent) was relatively minor and involved purely verbal actions such as screaming and cursing. Another ten percent had their privacy violated when a fellow resident came into their room, uninvited or went through their personal belongings. However, small percentages of residents did experience more serious incidents of physical violence (e.g. biting, hitting, kicking, etc.) or sexual advances (e.g. touching in inappropriate areas, exposing one's genitals, etc.).

Grappling with the challenges of cognitive impairment made a nursing home resident significantly more likely to mistreat their fellow residents. "Often their underlying dementia or mood disorder can manifest as verbally or physically aggressive behavior," Pillemer notes. "It's no surprise that these individuals are more likely to partake in arguments, shouting matches, and pushing and shoving, particularly in close, crowded quarters."

Overall, resident altercations tended to be more common between younger individuals with fewer physical and mental impairments.

Keeping your loved one safe

The findings of studies like these appear to add evidence to the argument against nursing home placement, but if your loved one needs to enter a long-term care facility, there are things you can do to help keep them safe from abuse.

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3 Comments

As a daughter who really didn't have a choice but to put my Mom in a nursing home that last statement about arguments against nursing home placements just puts salt in an already touchy wound.

Yes I have had my concerns since placing my Mom and yes other residents have entered my Mom's room uninvited but so far its been harmless and I do believe the staff where my Mom is do their best to keep the place secure and the residents safe.

Rather than write articles like this that just place fear in a heart that already feels guilty maybe try instigating a study where we can better secure nursing homes.
There is a column in February 3 1015 NYT entitled: A Faciity's Bingo Call: You Can't play" which highlights one woman's 'bullying' experience within an activity (in this case Bingo).

People put down serious money to enter Independent Living facilities believing as they age, they'll be cared for. This is not always the case.

These 'homes' need to insure their resident's safety. This can't be done with the staffing I've seen. Much is spent on the beauty and allure of these homes when it should be spent on the one area that really matters, the employees.

I've seen this type of behavior in the skilled nursing facility that houses my mother. At first I thought it was just a fluke, a one day thing, but it continued. I was reminded of playground bullies.

When are these large corporations that run these facilities going to put people over profits?
This is right on. My mother has suffered a series of injuries, some small, from other residents in her senior facility. The only solution is to hire more staff/ resident. We want freedom for residents, but watchful care. This is a problem that should go to administration.