Living in a nursing home community is akin to being placed in a commune with strangers. You must share the same space and resources while learning to work together for the betterment of the group. In a community of seniors, there are problems, just as there are with other social groups. From simple robbery to assault, rape and even murder, crimes are a problem in the nursing home and must be handled appropriately. Though charges are often filed for major crimes, smaller infractions are usually dealt with in-house by the arbitration team and the resident. One crime that often goes unpunished is resident on resident abuse, and this problem is more prevalent than you might think.
Residents Abusing Other Residents Statistics
According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, 7.6% of the complaints received by long-term care Ombudsman services in 2014 included abuse in one form or another. Reports of resident-on-resident abuse surpassed those of abuse by staff members. It is estimated that one in five residents will face abuse from a roommate or other resident. Resident-on-resident abuse ranges from physical abuse and altercations to verbal abuse and even unwanted attention.
It’s not hard to see why this is happening. Like other peer-centered communities like high schools, seniors in nursing homes often create peer groups in the same way they once did as teenagers. Bullying, cliques, and confrontation are unavoidable aspects of living in such a social group. Of course, there are consequences for abusers.
New Laws Extend Punishments For Abusers
Thanks to the roughly $75 billion in government funding of nursing homes in 2014, many communities have implemented changes to ensure that they remain eligible for Medicaid funding. The first phase of these changes was implemented in Fall 2016 and include:
- A choice in roommates, so seniors can decide who they wish to share their space with. This includes the ability for same-sex couples, siblings and spouses to live together. It also allows for more flexible visitor policies.
- Expanded protection from elder abuse, when it comes to staffing. This protection requires that nursing homes screen applicants better and refuse to hire those who have been disciplined for abuse in the past.
- More thorough grievance procedure. An ombudsman is appointed to handle complaints by senior residents so that they get the attention they deserve.
- Ban of pre-dispute arbitration clauses. Nursing homes can no longer require seniors to sign arbitration agreements before they apply to live in a care facility. This will make it easier for residents to sue the nursing home or other residents if they feel they have been wronged.
Tackling Resident-On-Resident Abuse
With increased safeguards to protect seniors from abuse by staff members and other caretakers, resident-on-resident abuse can be tackled without distraction. One way to minimize abuse of seniors on other seniors is to guarantee that residents’ physical and emotional needs are being met. Seniors who lash out at others may be feeling inadequate or neglected and see violence as a way to get attention.
Another way to reduce the incidence of resident-on-resident abuse is to match roommates appropriately. Occasional personality conflicts are unavoidable, but if roommates are constantly fighting, there may be a clash of personalities that just cannot be fixed. Finally, seniors have the right to live without the fear of being assaulted or otherwise attacked. Seniors who have a history of physical violence should be monitored closely to ensure that others don’t get hurt.
Unfortunately, physical and emotional abuse in nursing homes is still a problem, even with recent changes. If you have a senior living in a residential facility, you spend a lot of time worried about him/her even if they seem to be content and well-cared for. Finding that he/she might have been abused by a staff member or other residents turns that worry into fury. However, you decide to deal with it, your local senior long-term care ombudsman can provide you a path to a positive solution.