Is a Nursing Home Responsible When a Resident is Abused by Another Resident?

February 10th, 2016 by Attorney Roger Weinberg

Nursing homes have an obligation to keep residents safe. Though abuse of seniors and the disabled by nursing home staff often makes the news, what’s less known is the abuse seniors endure at the hands of other nursing home residents. Maryland nursing homes need to maintain the safety of their residents no matter who the potential threat may be.

An article on this issue published in the Journal of Continuing Nursing Education reported these findings:

  • A study of resident-to-resident violence in one nursing home found 294 cases of abuse during a one-year period.
  • A survey of nurse aides working in 249 nursing homes in ten states reported extensive instances of resident-on-resident aggression, including verbal, physical, material, psychological and sexual abuses.
  • Another study broke down the most common abuses into the following categories: “invasion of privacy or personal integrity,” ”roommate issues,” “intentional verbal aggression,” “unprovoked actions,” and “inappropriate sexual behavior.”
  • The consequences of nursing home abuse can include falls, fractures, lacerations, abrasion, cuts, depression, anxiety, functional decline and decreased quality of life.

A survey by a team of researchers from the Weill Cornell Medical College in New York included about 2,000 people living in ten skilled nursing facilities in the state, reports New America Media. They found inappropriate, disruptive and hostile behavior between residents is common.

  • Nearly 6% of residents were involved in hitting, kicking or biting.
  • 16% of the cases involved screaming or swearing.
  • Less than 2% involved exposure of genitals and other unwanted sexual advances.
  • More than 10% of residents reported “unwelcome entry into another resident’s room or going through another resident’s possessions” which could trigger an angry physical response from the resident whose privacy was violated.

Numerous factors can lead to resident-on-resident abuse:

  • Overcrowding, since less private space leads to more forced, unwanted interactions.
  • Understaffing and low staff-to-resident ratios.
  • Unresolved conflicts between residents, creating ongoing hostility which impacts other residents.
  • Staff members are desensitized to the abuse because it’s so common and they see conflict as normal behavior.
  • Due to limited physical abilities, a resident subjected to abuse can feel a lack of control and respond aggressively.

Researchers found those involved in aggressive behavior tend to be younger, have dementia or some other mental illness, and to be mobile and physically able.

Cornell researchers suggest better guidelines for nursing home employees who work with residents. There should be more social and physical activities for residents to keep them occupied; residents who wander around a facility because they’re bored may trigger conflict with others. Improved programming may result in residents’ getting better sleep, which would reduce anxiety and aggression. Researchers warn that without proper steps to address resident-on-resident aggression, the situation will only get worse.

Nursing homes, assisted living facilities and group homes need to take the steps necessary to protect residents, whether that’s increasing the number on staff, providing better training, improving procedures or adding programming. If a resident poses the degree of threat that the staff cannot appropriately handle him, that resident should be removed and cared for in a different facility.

If your loved one has been harmed by another nursing home resident in a Maryland facility, contact our office. We can talk about what happened, what can be done to prevent it from happening again, how the law may apply and your options for obtaining compensation for the injuries that occurred. Roger Weinberg is a recognized figure in Maryland nursing home abuse legal matters. He not only has lectured at national gatherings but has spoken on how to refute nursing home abuse defense arguments at elderly abuse conferences. At the Law Offices of Roger S. Weinberg, you’ll find compassionate support and experienced advocates to help your family through the tough times. Call 410-825-3161 today to schedule a free consultation.

  • Award: Nursing Home top 10 Trial Lawyers
  • Award: American Association for Justice
  • Award: Maryland Association for Justice
  • Award: The National Trial Lawyers
  • Avvo