Nursing home abuse is an ugly and often hidden phenomenon in many U.S. long-term nursing facilities. All too often, the abuse is at the hands of home staff and aides. However, staff and management are not the only sources of abuse. Inter-resident violence occurs frequently in many facilities and is often not reported or managed successfully by caregivers.
A new report by Dr. Karl Pillemer, professor of gerontology at Weill Cornell College of Medicine, reveals widespread aggression, conflicts and violence are common in U.S. nursing homes. In fact, one in five residents reported having confrontations of one type or another with other patients at least once a month.
Consider some of the stories involving resident-against-resident violence: an elderly lady in a wheelchair, constantly harassed by another resident who wants intercourse, the violent roommate with dementia who bullies everyone and gets away with it, or the elderly man with a flashpoint temper who lashes out at everyone when he does not get his own way. Behavior like this seems to be an every day occurrence in nursing facilities.
In a sample of some 2,000 nursing home patients, virtually 16 percent got into verbal flare-ups involving yelling, screaming, cursing and other forms of verbal abuse. Nearly 6 percent actually got into a physical confrontation with another resident where biting, kicking and hitting were the norm. And one percent experienced unwanted sexual behavior in the form of aggressive advances from another resident.
The most shocking issue involving elder abuse is that fact that it does not just happen in nursing facilities, but also at home and in other private residences. It is a vastly underreported problem that appears to not have any kind of a readily available solution. Caregivers with more oversight and training may be a place to start. Better understanding of cognitive issues would also go a long way toward helping those in care. Dementia is not something people can control and patients do odd things often as the result of mental dysfunction.
Nursing home and elder abuse are issues that the nation needs to look at with the honest intention of doing something about it, not hiding it.