What we once thought we knew about nursing home abuse may soon be turned on its ear, thanks to a new study that points to other residents as contributors to the physical violence that goes on in some assisted living facilities.
While caretakers and other nursing home staff members are typically the first to be blamed for a new cut or bruise, researchers suggest a roommate or other resident is a likely culprit.
Karl Pillemer, professor at Weill Cornell Medical College and Cornell University and lead author of the study, also found that staff members commonly seem unaware of the issues that exist between residents. Although they may not be the direct cause of this abuse, it is their responsibility to appropriately monitor patients and prevent it.
This study is the first of its kind, examining the nature of invasive and disruptive incidents between residents. Based on Pillemer’s research, one in every five nursing home residents suffered abuse within a four-week window. The study results were made public earlier this month at the annual meeting of the Gerontological Society of America. With nearly 1.4 million people comprising the nursing home population in the U.S., identifying the source of the abuse and neglect that harm so many is critical.
Examining the Evidence
Pillemer’s Cornell team examined 2,011 individuals from 10 nursing homes, employing a variety of methods to gather the information they needed. They relied on interviews with residents and staff, reports from inspectors, and more.
They then developed a profile of each type of resident who was most likely to offend and found that typically these individuals were housed together. While this may have exacerbated the problem, other factors that influenced abuse scenarios were crowded quarters and ongoing conflicts between roommates.
What Pillemer’s team discovered about the typical victim was disconcerting.
“These are more active and mobile residents who are more likely to be in harm’s way. They tend to be younger, less cognitively impaired, more likely to have mood disorders and more likely to be in a memory-care unit,” he said.