For anyone with a family member or other loved one living in a nursing home, the potential for elder abuse is a likely an ever-present concern. Abuse and neglect of nursing home residents can take many forms, and new research is shedding light on area that is often overlooked: abuse by other nursing home residents.

Growing awareness of elder abuse issues

The elderly population in the United States has grown considerably in recent decades, with the Baby Boom generation shifting into retirement and medical advancements helping people live longer lives. With that growth has come an increasing demand for long-term care options for the elderly, as well as a growing awareness of the abuses that are sometimes perpetrated against senior citizens.

In earlier years, as elder abuse issues began to surface as a matter of widespread public concern, most efforts were focused on protecting the elderly from neglect and financial exploitation by family members and others outside the nursing home setting. Over the years, however, awareness grew of the abuses suffered by many elderly individuals living in nursing homes. As reports of neglect and physical, sexual and verbal abuse by nursing home staff began to surface with increasing frequency, those conversations shifted toward finding ways to protect seniors from being abused by their caregivers at live-in facilities.

Recently, however, new research suggests that abuse by other nursing home residents may pose an even greater threat to the health and safety of elderly individuals in long-term care. A 2014 study at Cornell University, which was funded by the National Institute on Aging, found that about one in every five nursing home residents said they had been affected by some form of resident-to-resident mistreatment during the past four weeks. Common forms of mistreatment by other nursing home residents included:

  • Verbal abuse (16 percent)
  • Physical abuse (5 percent)
  • Sexual abuse (1 percent)

Furthermore, more than 10 percent of nursing home residents surveyed for the study said that another resident had entered their living space or gone through their possessions without permission during the period in question.

Mixed-purpose care facilities may increase risk

According to the study, one factor that may account for the frequency of resident-to-resident abuse is the growing use of mixed-purpose care facilities. Specifically, the risk may be higher in nursing homes that house the elderly, frail and cognitively impaired alongside those who are able-bodied but afflicted with emotional and behavioral disorders. Particularly in assisted-living facilities, residents who are mentally unstable but physically capable of inflicting harm on others may prey on those who are vulnerable and unable to defend themselves.

Nursing homes and their staff have a duty not only to care for their elderly residents, but also to protect them from foreseeable harm - including that which may be inflicted by other residents. If a member of your family has suffered any type of abuse or neglect in a long-term care facility in Illinois, be sure to talk the situation over with an attorney who has experience with cases like yours. The nursing home abuse lawyers at Konicek & Dillon, P.C., can help you take the necessary steps to put a stop to the abuse and hold the responsible parties accountable for their actions.

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