A study published June 14, 2016 in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that at least one out of five seniors residing in a nursing home has experienced resident-on-resident abuse. Reports of resident-on-resident abuse were tracked over a period of one month in New York nursing homes through interviews, observation and incident reports. Of the 2,0111 residents included in the study, more than 20% (407 residents) said they experienced such abuse over that month. The research found verbal abuse was ranked highest followed by assorted instances such as invasion of privacy and menacing gestures, physical abuse with incidents of sexual abuse accounting for a small percentage.
Several factors had an impact on the amount of abuse experienced, for example residents in a dementia unit with a greater nurse aide caseload reported higher rates of abuse. Dr. Mark Lachs, researcher at Weill Cornell Medicine stated most of the aggressive acts that occur in a nursing home are due to community living. Residents often suffer from dementia or other neurodegenerative illnesses and are being forced into communal living areas for the first time in decades, which are often triggers for people suffering from these illnesses. Dr. Janice Du Mont, a public health researcher at the University of Toronto suggested families of patients with dementia or patients prone to violent behavior should look for nursing homes with rooms or units set aside to prevent triggering aggressive acts. She also suggested touring facilities to see if the space feels adequate or overcrowded.
The results of this study have led researchers to believe traditional efforts to curb nursing home abuse are being disproportionately aimed at health care providers and that efforts to end abuse should include residents as well. An editorial included with the article written by Dr. XinQi Dong from the Bush Institute for Health Aging, stated that further research is necessary to develop appropriate interventions for resident-on-resident mistreatment. Dong said it is important to remember medical staff and residents can be perpetrators of abuse. He also suggested not blaming the victim and staying away from interventions of convenience, such as sedation or physical restraint, suggesting instead looking into ways technology can help measure and prevent abuse.