The Buffalo News reported the common problem of resident to resident abuse in nursing homes.  A recent study found that one of every five residents experiences some form of aggression at the hands of other residents every month.  Every year, several homicides result from attacks by nursing home residents.

assaults are part of a pattern of negative resident-on-resident encounters that has been documented and reported on by a team of researchers from the Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City. The researchers surveyed about 2,000 people living in 10 skilled nursing facilities in New York State to track inappropriate, disruptive and hostile behavior between residents – and found it to be surprisingly common.

The offenses ranged from the merely irritating to the physically threatening. Researchers discovered:

• Nearly 6 percent of residents were involved in hitting, kicking or biting

• 16 percent of the cases were in the form of screaming or cursing at people

• A small number – less than 2 percent – exposed their genitals or made unwanted sexual advances

• And there were various instances of scratching, spitting and throwing things.

• More than 10 percent of the residents experienced “unwelcome entry into another resident’s room or going through another resident’s possessions” – a seemingly minor offense, but the type of behavior that can trigger an angry physical response from the person who is intruded upon.


By taking a closer look at how nursing home residents mistreat one another, elder care professionals can work on better ways to prevent it.  Defining the risk factors that can lead to more resident-on-resident mistreatment is easier. Places that reported more incidents share similar characteristics:

• Conditions were more crowded and there was less private space. This forced more unwanted interactions.

• Understaffing and low staff-to-resident ratios were common.

• Ongoing conflicts between residents were more likely to go unresolved, and being around ongoing hostility stressed out other residents;

• Staff members became so desensitized they begin to view the conflicts as normal behavior.


Research has shown that increasing worthwhile social interaction and physical activity helped adults with memory problems get more sleep, and that in turn reduced anxiety and they became less aggressive.

“Without these policy and practice changes,” she said, “there will be a growing incidence of aggression as staff and residents deal with the stressors of institutional life.”


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