A common assumption is that residents in nursing homes automatically get along with each other and live harmoniously for the remainder of their natural lives. Unfortunately, this is not a reality.
One of the most prevalent issues affecting residents in nursing homes is resident-to-resident abuse. Although this may be abuse that does not immediately come to mind when one thinks of abuse, it is all too common in nursing homes.
The injury attorneys at Phoenix Accident and Injury Law Firm near you have significant experience in helping clients who have been the victim of resident abuse. Our offices are conveniently located in nearby Chandler, Peoria, and North Phoenix, and we can meet in-person at our nearby offices, over the phone, or via video call. You can contact us for a free consultation, or read on to find out more.
By the way, we will also help with other problems that have cost you sleep, like finding a nearby doctor who can help you or recommending you to temporary or long-term care options. You and your family’s’ safety and health are our top concern, and even the best legal team isn’t good enough if your quality of life isn’t sustainable while justice and compensation are on the way. The whole point of legal action is to regain quality of life, so we help you long-term as attorneys and short-term as your go-to people. Our familiarity with the local Phoenix courts makes us confident that we can help you get the best settlement possible.
To figure out how the nursing home you have chosen for your family is rated and to see if the home has any prior violations, check out our nursing home index. We’ve compiled all of the nursing homes in Arizona as well as their health code reports.
Additionally, take a look at our Nursing Home Glossary– an index of important words you need to know in a nursing home abuse case and their definitions.
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This article covers what constitutes resident on resident abuse, the nursing home’s obligations and what you can do if this happens to your loved one.
What is resident-to-resident abuse?
The National Consumer Voice for Long-Term Care conducted a study on resident-to-resident abuse in nursing homes and defined it in this way:
“Negative physical, sexual, or verbal interactions between long-term care residents that in
a community setting would likely be construed as unwelcome and have high potential to cause physical or psychological distress in the recipient.”
The following are common examples of resident-to-resident abusive behavior:
- Verbal abuse (cursing or swearing, screaming, verbal threats);
- Physical abuse (hitting, kicking, biting, scratching);
- Sexual abuse (unwelcome verbal sexual advances, exposing self, touching/kissing/trying to get into bed);
- Other abusive incidents (throwing items, destroying property, threatening gestures)
Why do these abusive situations happen?
Nursing homes house residents that typically have impaired cognitive ability or a mood disorder, which may impact their propensity for violence towards others.
Due to impaired cognitive ability or a mood disorder, new residents at nursing home facilities might have a hard time adjusting to their new surroundings.
Acting out, which may manifest in violence towards others, is very common.
It is the responsibility of the facility to identify any abusive or dangerous tendencies in its residents, and put care plans in place to avoid resident-to-resident abuse.
Is the nursing home responsible for resident-to-resident abuse?
Yes, federal law requires nursing homes to protect its residents from abuse, including abuse from other residents.
Therefore, it is the nursing home’s responsibility to make sure that it takes the proper steps to ensure the safety of each resident.
What can a nursing home do to prevent resident to resident abuse?
Resident-to-resident abuse can occur in any nursing home setting.
However, nursing homes that are understaffed, crowded facilities, and nursing homes that consider resident-to-resident abuse “normal” are more likely to have resident-to-resident abuse occurrences.
The nursing home must complete a thorough initial assessment when a resident is admitted to the facility. Key questions that they should as are:
- Does the resident have a documented history of violence towards others?
- Due to health conditions, does the resident yell out?
- If yes, is that typically towards another person in a threatening manner, or is it general yelling due to a medical condition?
The nursing home must answer these questions and thoroughly assess whether or not the resident might be violent towards other residents.
If the resident has a known history of violence, the nursing home must accommodate that resident so that he or she does not abuse or harm the other nursing home residents.
If a nursing home identifies that a resident has a propensity of violence towards other residents at the nursing home, the facility should do the following to help prevent resident-to-resident abuse:
- Develop an individualized, resident-centered care plan
- Closely monitor residents that show a propensity of violence
- Identify the risk factors that may trigger the resident to act violently
- Provide adequate staff-to-resident ratios
- Provide proper training for staff
- Provide more meaningful activities and engagement for residents
- Don’t allow common areas to become too crowded
Will my loved one report the abuse from another resident?
Resident-to-resident abuse is similar to victims of domestic violence or other kinds of abuse — often the victim is reluctant to report their abuse.
It’s also important to remember that in a nursing home setting, the resident may not cognitively be able to articulate the abuse to a staff member or family member.
The following are common symptoms to look for in a loved one if you suspect resident-to-resident mistreatment:
- Behavioral changes. An increase in anxiety, changes in sleep patterns, changes in appetite and the like should be documented by nursing home staff members. Sometimes this can be a result in advanced stages of dementia, but it could also be the result of abuse against your loved one.
- Unexplained bruising or abrasions. Injuries of any kind should have reasonable documentation explaining how it occurred.
- Sexually transmitted diseases. Typically residents in nursing homes do not have the capacity to consent and must be protected from other residents
- Withdrawal from social activities and family visits/caregivers refusing access loved one. Red flags should be raised if a loved one does not want to visit with family or a caregiver does not give a family member access to their loved one, whatever the reason might be.
- Frequent injuries. Even if injuries are documented, one should be suspicious if injuries are frequently happening.
- Broken personal items. If your loved ones personal items are being damaged, it may be a sign of a resident harming or intimidating your loved one.
It is important to report any suspected abuse in which your loved one may have been the victim. The nursing home is required to investigate all allegations of abuse.
How can nursing homes be held liable for resident-to-resident mistreatment?
Nursing homes are required by law to protect residents from abuse, whether that abuse is from staff members or other residents. If the nursing home does not take the proper action and precautions to protect residents from other residents, then the nursing home can be held liable for injuries suffered by the victim of resident-to-resident abuse.
Foreseeability is a major factor in determining whether or not a nursing home may be held liable for a resident’s injuries in resident-to-resident abuse. It is the nursing home’s responsibility to prevent foreseeable harm to its residents.
This can be done by reviewing prior medical records, speaking with family or friends of the resident, and completing a thorough assessment of the resident upon admission to the facility. Failure to do a proper initial assessment is negligent behavior by a nursing home facility.
How should they handle violent residents?
If a resident has ongoing behavioral issues or violent tendencies towards others, then it is the nursing home’s responsibility to either:
- Remove the resident from the nursing home or
- Prevent the violent resident from harming other nursing home residents.
Lower staff-to-resident ratios may also contribute to resident-to-resident mistreatment incidents. Improper nursing home staffing may result in many issues, including resident-to-resident abuse. If there is not enough staff for the number of residents at a facility, the resident’s needs may not be met promptly. This may cause a resident to become agitated and become violent with other residents.
Because residents that attack other residents usually have impaired cognitive ability, it is the nursing home’s responsibility to make sure resident-to-resident abusive interactions do not occur.
Remember, under Federal law, residents are promised a safe and healthy environment in nursing home settings.
Resident-to-Resident Mistreatment Cases
Here are some recent examples of residents on resident abuse that took place in nursing homes:
Male nursing home resident sexually attacks female nursing home resident
A sixty-six-year-old male nursing home resident with cerebral palsy sexually assaulted an eighty-six-year-old female nursing home resident.
The male resident preyed on the female resident due to her worsening dementia. The male resident was a known sex offender known by the nursing home before the male resident was admitted to the facility. The male resident previously threatened a female caregiver at the facility.
In fact, the male resident had acted aggressively towards the female resident prior to the sexual assault. The staff members at the nursing home were aware of a “relationship” between the male and female residents and did not believe that the female resident had the mental capacity to consent due to her dementia.
Female nursing home resident shoves male nursing home resident
An eighty-six-year-old male resident was shoved from behind by a seventy-three-year-old female resident with known violent tendencies, especially toward the male resident.
The male resident suffered facial and spinal fractures, as well as a brain bleed as a result of the fall. The male resident died shortly after.
The nursing home was held liable for the resident’s death because the nursing home did not take proper precautions in protecting the male resident from the female resident’s violent tendencies.
Nursing home roommates with a history of arguing
Two male nursing home residents shared a room for several months. The residents did not get along and frequently argued, which was known by the nursing home facility and its staff.
The nursing home did not move the residents to separate rooms. The facility put a movable curtain between the residents in their room. During another argument between the residents, one of the roommates took a leg rest off a wheelchair and beat the other resident to death.
Because the nursing home facility did not take proper action when it knew that the residents were verbally aggressive towards each other, the facility was found liable for the resident’s death.
Get Help Now
Our team of abuse attorneys is dedicated to seeking damages on behalf of those family members who are being abused and helping you find better accommodations for them in the nearby area. We’ve worked on several nursing home abuse cases previously in your area and take the time to understand the family’s concerns as well as the situation they believe their loved one is in.
At Phoenix Accident and Injury Law Firm near you, we have more than 15 years of experience helping clients obtain compensation for their and their loved one’s personal injuries, including those from resident abuse in the Phoenix area. When you’re ready to talk, please contact our office to arrange a free initial consultation by phone or at our Chandler office, conveniently located near you.
If you or a loved one has been the victim of resident abuse, contact Phoenix Accident and Injury Law Firm in nearby Chandler, AZ, to speak with an experienced personal injury attorney. We provide personal injury legal services to clients in your area, including Chandle, Gilbert, Mesa, Scottsdale, Tempe, and Peoria.