Cases involving elder abuse typically make headlines when it is a staff member committing acts of violence or neglect. In reality, most cases of elder abuse involve resident to resident attacks. In facilities where the most vulnerable residents are placed in close proximity to people suffering from dementia and hallucinations, it is no surprise that violence is a problem. Caregivers must be properly trained. The facilities housing residents must be up to the challenge of meeting the needs of residents, including the need to be safe from violence.
A 2014 study found that 20 percent of nursing home residents had been involved in an aggressive encounter of some kind with a fellow resident in the previous four weeks. That figure is astoundingly high. Nursing homes and elder care facilities should not be places where elderly people are put in danger. While declining health may make living alone an unsafe proposition, it should not be replaced with a strong likelihood of being involved in aggressive confrontations.
Some health conditions carry with them an increased propensity for aggression. When mental deterioration leads to an increased propensity for violence, steps need to be taken. Housing violent residents with those unable to protect themselves is a recipe for disaster. We should expect more from our assisted living and elder care facilities.
Sadly, the way lapses in proper care are handled is often through lawsuits. Elder abuse and wrongful death claims address the problem after the fact. The goal must be to prevent violent incidents from occurring in the first place. Improved mental health screening, better training for caregivers on how to deal with violent residents and better funding could all help address this serious problem.
Source: New America Media, “Elder Abuse Rising in Care Facilities Mixing the Frail and the Disturbed,” by Elizabeth Simpson, 25 February 2015