Study Finds Elders at Risk of Abuse from Fellow Nursing Home Residents

man staring out windowWe all have family members that we love and want only the best for. As our parents and other family members reach an age where they may need assisted living or an in-home nurse, the last thing we want to worry about is neglect or abuse. Although stories of abuse suffered by elders at the hands of nursing home staff, or as the result of neglect, there are rarely reports of patient on patient abuse. However, a June 2016 study published by the Annals of Internal Medicine online reveals that more nursing home patients may be suffering from abuse at the hands of their fellow residents than previously known.

This new study from the Annals of Internal Medicine aims to shed some light on the much overlooked issue. When asked if a patient had encountered abuse, 1 in 5 residents stated they had in the past month. This is significant, because it not only shows that 20% of nursing home residents experience abuse, but is possibly indicative of a routine problem of systematic abuse.

Most commonly, the abuse suffered by elder victims is being on the receiving end of a verbal assault or being witness to behavior that would be considered unacceptable in nearly every public situation. Specifically, the study describes this form of abuse as “negative and aggressive physical, sexual, or verbal interaction between long-term care residents that in a community setting would likely be construed as unwelcome and have high potential to cause physical or psychological distress in the recipient.” Although most encounters were verbal, the study also revealed incidents of physical and sexual abuse between residents.

There is a simple reason why physical and sexual abuse is the most commonly reported elder abuse, despite the fact that mistreatment and verbal abuse are the most common forms of abuse suffered by elders. The reason lies in the fact that physical and sexual abuse often leave visible signs indicating a person was harmed. In other words, broken bones or bruises are visible, but mental abuse cannot always be seen with the naked eye. When older patients lose their ability to communicate effectively or suffer memory loss, it becomes harder for caregivers or loved ones to detect signs of potential abuse. That’s why it is so important for family and care providers to be vigilant in asking questions and surveying a patient’s mood and behavior. Changes in a patient’s mood, an increase in anxiety or signs of depression can all be symptoms of elder abuse.

It is clear more research needs to be done to gather accurate figures, so that solutions to this problem may be created. At the moment, it is not known exactly how much caregivers contribute to this issue. Whether they are intervening properly, or even recognizing the behavior, is not known and worth more time and study. The best course of action is to be meticulous about choosing a nursing home for your loved San Diego elder and make constant contact with not only the staff taking care of them, but the other residents in the facility. Bed sores, missed meals, wrong medication dosages, and neglect are things family members often know to look for, but it is also important to observe the staff and other patients your loved one is surrounded by. If you feel uncomfortable, ask questions and go with your intuition. It is always better to be safe than sorry.

Walton Law, APC is a San Diego boutique law firm dedicated exclusively to representing injured parties in the areas of personal injury, nursing home abuse and neglect, and financial elder abuse. If you believe somebody you know has been a victim of elder abuse in San Diego, CA, please call (866) 338-7079 for a free and confidential consultation.