Resident-On-Resident Elder Abuse Rampant, Reports New England Journal of Medicine
Written by Jeff Meyer on November 11, 2015
According to the esteemed New England Journal of Medicine, elder abuse is a national medical problem facing the United States, and in turn, credible, peer-reviewed estimates from the authors hold that as much as ten (10%) percent of the American elderly population has endured elder abuse. While much of the extant awareness literature on nursing home and elder abuse shies away from mentioning it, the Journal also reported that while nursing home staff members legally and medically owe a duty of care to address patient problems, the reality is that research corroborating earlier findings from Cornell University’s research studies into elder abuse revealed that nearly twenty (20%) of patients were abusive towards staff, as well as other residents, with repeated adversarial interactions over time exacerbating already problematic behaviors in these elderly patients.
Defining Resident on Resident Elder Abuse Broadly
A resident on resident abuse is defined as adversarial, hostile, aggressive, undesired interactions between two or more residents of a nursing home facility, usually in long-term care situations preventing easy separation of parties. Far from unwanted harassment, resident on resident abuse in nursing homes can comprise of physical or sexual assaults on nursing home roommates, physical and sexual assaults on staff members, threatening or creating a hostile environment for other residents, theft of property, and disruption of the ordinary course of care of others at the nursing home facility. Problematically, in certain cases, these highly anti-social and potentially criminal behaviors due to ongoing aging related illnesses, perhaps Alzheimer’s, is the reason that a given patient is present in the facility in the first place, which is due to the age-related complications of behavioral deficits in later stages of dementia and Alzheimer’s.
Defining the Prevalence of Resident on Resident Abuse in Nursing Homes
While underplayed in national elder abuse awareness campaigns, resident on resident abuse is accountable for nearly twenty (20%) of nursing home abuse incidents. The following information also provides a broader picture of the pervasive nature of the American elder abuse issue, including:
- As a demographic, two of the least likely groups to report incidents abuse are elderly persons and those individuals having dementia, which proves complicating in relying upon peer-awareness in facilities for monitoring for signs of abuse inside a facility
- The age cohort of elders that are most susceptible to financial abuse are those relatively young elders in the mid to late 60s with a younger family member frequently being found to be engaged in pattern of financial abuse over time.
- Resident on resident abuse cases comprise about 5% of instances relating exclusively to financial exploitation, but rather, the most common form of abuse in nursing homes are threats and verbal abuse, following by physical assaults.
To the New England Journal of Medicine, the relative proximity over a prolonged period between patients with dementia or other cognitive impairments would produce hostility and aggressiveness in many patients under favorable conditions, and as such, to some extent, the manifestations of the deteriorating effects of age on the brain are these abuse type behaviors in nursing homes.
However, despite the relative lack of moral responsibility that a fellow resident may owe given the progression of a neurological disease, staff members, and nursing home officials minimally owe all patients a duty of care that includes removing threats to their safety from the nursing environment; Failure to do so by the nursing home facility in a reasonable and prudent manner could be grounds for filing an elder abuse lawsuit.