When you have a family member in a nursing home, there are already many issues to worry about in terms of nursing home negligence. Most of these shortcomings focus on nursing home management and staff, however other residents are often not considered in this scenario. Many people visit their loved ones or choose a nursing home never realizing that the worst abuse can arise from other people also receiving care at the nursing home.
Referred to as Resident-to-Resident Elder Mistreatment, or R-REM, Cornell University recently studied the occurrence of these incidents. Here is an overview of this problem and what you can do if your family member faces its unfortunate effects.
Resident-to-Resident Elder Mistreatment (R-REM) Prevalence
The Cornell University study is published in the “Annals of Internal Medicine.” It was expected that R-REM occurred however, the rate of its frequency was surprising. After evaluating 2,011 residents in 10 nursing homes over one month, research revealed 20.2 percent of residents faced at least once incident of abuse from other residents.
Verbal abuse was the most common with nine percent of those surveyed reporting it. Invasion of privacy, theft, sexual abuse, and physical attacks also were reported. Injury and death can easily arise from these incidents, especially the physical ones, although stress and emotional instability were the most common effects. As expected, this does not help make a stay in a nursing home more pleasant.
Causes & Solutions
Cognitive impairment is a big risk factor in R-REM. People who are not usually aggressive take out their frustrations on other residents with verbal or physical attacks. In cases where people are more mobile than their counterparts, invasion of privacy and theft were common. Cases of the ‘youngest of the old’ taking advantage of older less mobile residents were also cited as a problem. Reports of people who frequently “visited” the rooms of less mobile residents and helped themselves to items of value were often revealed in the study.
Crowding is also a factor in R-REM. This is especially true in the winter months when there are few outdoor activities. If a nursing home has reduced staff, supervising all these people in crowded hallways and cafeterias becomes difficult. This increases the likelihood of abuse incidents especially since crowding will often enhance the frustration already resulting from cognitive impairments.
Finally, the common issue of staffing problems also contributes to R-REM. Inadequate training prevents workers from recognizing the symptoms of cognitive impairment and aggression factors into this. Also, it is often a numbers game involving the staff to patient ratio. Many homes do not have enough workers to catch every incident of abuse. Even if victims report the incidents, there is no guarantee that staff is equipped to solve the problem. This can cause the abuse to continue and result in long-term emotional and physical damage to your family member.
What To Do If Your Loved One Experiences R-REM
First, it is vital that you communicate openly with your family member at every visit. You need to let them know that it is safe to share concerns they have with the home. Ask specific questions about how they get along with others and be persistent to address this topic every time you see them. Older people may be unwilling to open up on physical or sexual abuse or consider verbal attacks ‘just words.’ If you acknowledge your loved one’s feelings and always keep communication open, they are more likely to tell you if they are experiencing R-REM.
Also, be aware of negative interactions with other residents. Your loved one could be the victim or the abuser in any situation. If you notice he or she is the bully, look into further cognitive care and perhaps consider moving your family member into a home with that specialty. You will likely find their staff is better trained and the care is superior.
If you learn that another resident is physically, sexually, or verbally abusing your family member, report the incident immediately. The same is true if your family member shares that someone is entering his or her room without permission and taking items. Management’s response to the incident determines future actions. If they find a way to separate the abuser from your family member, increase supervision or even arrange to have that person moved, then it is likely that the victim can start a road to recovery.
Unfortunately, management can respond to your report inadequately or worse, fail to address the issue at all. When you face this issue, you need a law firm that specializes in nursing home abuse and neglect. The Rooth Law Firm is here to address your concerns with nursing home. You can call us for a free consultation at (800) 350-0646.