Aggression Between Nursing Home Residents Common, Unreported

In the first study of its kind, a new report found that many nursing home residents experience violence from other residents while residents.  In America, 18 percent of staff at one residential facility reported aggression by residents as a daily occurrence. Further, 90 percent of the nursing home resident aggressors had a diagnosis of dementia. Because of the rules surrounding reporting nursing home abuse, the study found it is likely that much resident-to-resident violence goes unreported.

elderly-man-abused-300x169Dementia appears to be the largest cause of resident-to-resident violence in assisted living facilities. According to the Australian report, other risk factors that would make a nursing home resident more violent include being male and recent admission to a nursing home. However, of all these factors – dementia stands out, a diagnosis found in 90 percent of nursing home aggressors in Australia.

This is particularly troubling for two reasons. First, while nursing homes in Australia are required to report violence in nursing homes, there is an exception for cognitively-impaired residents that already have a behavioral plan in place. Given the high rate of violence caused by cognitively impaired residents in the study, this means that much violence between residents goes unreported. Second, because the rates of dementia are on the rise throughout the entire developed world – including in America – it appears that violence between residents will only increase if government authorities refuse to intervene.

The problem with nursing home abuse, including between residents, extends to the United States where a recent study found that 20 percent of nursing home residents experienced aggression from another resident in 2011. The most common form of abuse was verbal, with 9.1 percent of residents experiencing verbal aggression from another resident. Physical aggression, though, was not far behind – with 5.3 percent of residents experiencing physical aggression or a physical attack by another resident at their nursing home in 2011.  The most common form of physical aggression was a “push and fall.”

The research report, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, echoed the results of the Australian study when it came to risk factors. According to the study, residents with cognitive impairment, those residing in a dementia unit, and elderly residents assigned to a nurse aide with a heavy caseload are all at a higher risk of becoming an aggressor against another resident at their assisted living facility.

Another study, by Oxford Academic, found that most resident-to-resident aggression occurred in communal areas and generally at night or in the late afternoon. This broadly comports with our understanding of dementia – where symptoms tend to flare up in the late afternoon and evening hours, a phenomenon known as sundowning, according to the Mayo Clinic.

With dementia rates still on the rise throughout the world and an aging population in America, it will be important for government regulators and law firms to hold nursing homes accountable for protecting their patients.


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