Nursing home abuse, including sexual abuse, is a common and growing concern. As Ohio’s population ages, more than 70,000 Ohioans reside in long-term care facilities. Neglect and abuse of residents by staff members is often caused by understaffing or the lack of experienced staff. But another problem that faces nursing home residents is resident-on-resident abuse. In fact, some experts believe that resident-on-resident abuse is more common than abuse by staff members.
According to one study, 94% of nurse’s aides observed residents grabbing, pushing, or pinching other residents. Thirty-nine percent of nurse’s aides had seen residents exposing body parts to other residents. And 67% of nurse’s aides reported high levels of residents yelling at one another.
Many of the residents involved in these incidents suffer from cognitive impairments and cannot be held legally responsible for their actions. Nonetheless, physical, emotional, and sexual abuse can take a toll on the health of a nursing home resident, and the nursing home staff has an obligation to limit the occurrence of these episodes.
Physical and mental Limitations Make Residents More Vulnerable to Abuse
Nursing home residents are particularly vulnerable to resident-on-resident abuse. Many are unable to remove themselves from the situation because of their own physical or mental limitations and the dense population of residents within a nursing home facility.
For example, a slight push would not injure someone who is young and fit. But the same amount of force applied to someone who is elderly and could easily lose their balance could lead to a fall, a broken bone, and worse.
Because many nursing home residents are frail themselves, an act of aggression that may seem minor in another context can be much more serious in a nursing home. For example, a slight push would not injure someone who is young and fit. But the same amount of force applied to someone who is elderly and could easily lose their balance could lead to a fall, a broken bone, and worse.
Because many nursing home residents suffer cognitive impairments, resident-on-resident abuse is even more frightening and can cause the victim to withdraw and experience further cognitive decline.
Finally, victims of resident-on-resident abuse may lack the physical or mental capacity to report what has happened.
Be On the Lookout for Signs of Nursing Home Abuse
To protect your loved one, you must remain vigilant and be aware of the signs of nursing home abuse, regardless of who the abuser is.
Family members should be on the lookout for:
- Withdrawal, isolation, and signs of depression
- Changes in sleep patterns
- Unexplained bruises, scratches, or other marks
- Unexplained falls
- Symptoms of stress
Some residents may be reluctant to report abuse for fear of being accused of causing trouble.
Nursing Homes Must Protect Residents from resident-on-Resident Abuse
Because many nursing home residents are unable to protect themselves, the nursing home and its staff have an obligation to protect residents from conditions that pose a threat of harm. This includes behaviors that could cause harm to the resident him- or herself, as well as against actions that pose a risk of harm to others.
Nursing homes can and should take steps to protect residents by:
- Ensuring adequate staffing levels
- Properly training staff members to identify abuse by staff or other residents
- Minimizing excessive noise
- Avoiding overcrowding common areas
- Providing residents with engaging activities
If you believe your loved one has been a victim of resident-on-resident abuse, the nursing home abuse lawyers at Robenalt Law can help.
What To Do If You Suspect Nursing Home Abuse
Federal law requires that nursing home residents live in a place that is free from abuse. This includes abuse from other residents. If a loved one is suffering from abuse by another resident, you can try working with a facility administrator or staff member, contacting an ombudsman, or filing a complaint with the Ohio Department of Health.
You should also contact an experienced nursing home abuse attorney who will review the facts and circumstances of your situation and help determine whether you have a case against the nursing home, its staff, or its employees. A nursing home neglect lawyer will help stop the abuse from happening and will fight for your family’s right to compensation.
If you suspect your loved one has been a victim of resident-on-resident abuse, a lawyer can investigate the situation, work towards a settlement or, if necessary, take your case to trial.
Learn more about the Cleveland nursing home abuse lawyers at Robenalt Law, get answers to Frequently Asked Questions, and contact us today to schedule a free, confidential consultation to discuss your situation and how we can help.
At Robenalt Law, our attorneys handle nursing home abuse cases on a contingency fee, which means we don’t get paid unless we recover money for you. We represent people in greater Cleveland, throughout Ohio, and elsewhere.
Tom Robenalt started his litigation career representing nursing homes at a large firm in Cleveland. For the past 25 years, he has used that experience to help victims and the families of those injured by negligent health care providers.