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Nursing home abuse is abuse, no matter the source

Controlled environment -- if ever there is a phrase that ought to describe what we should find in an Illinois assisted living or nursing home setting that would probably be it. These are places we depend on to provide care for some of the most vulnerable members of our community. When that trust is violated and a loved one suffers neglect or abuse, seeking remedy is a right. It can sometimes be a challenge to obtain.

Unfortunately, the abuse in nursing homes isn't as uncommon as we would like it to be. Home employees can be one source of the problem. But what if the source of the abuse is not home employees? What if the perpetrators of the abuse are other residents?

We think most experts would agree that it shouldn't matter. Abuse is abuse, regardless of the source. What's more, it seems logical to expect that if homes have a duty to keep residents safe from employee abuse, the employees also have an obligation to keep their charges safe from abusive behavior by other residents.

Sadly, a new study indicates resident-on-resident mistreatment may be a growing issue. Researchers in New York conducted a month-long study of more than 2,000 residents at 10 nursing homes in that state. They report that about 20 percent of participants reported having suffered verbal or physical mistreatment at the hands of other residents.

The list of behaviors catalogued included:

  • Others rifling through personal belongings
  • Uninvited taking of another's food
  • Wheelchair collisions
  • Verbal abuse
  • Sexual assaults

In short, any unwelcome action counted that might result in psychological or physical distress.

Study authors say more research is needed to solve these issues, but they do have some recommendations – at least for homes serving patients with dementia. They suggest improving lighting, reducing noise, and making interior spaces generally safer.

Of course, the most important thing is for abuse or neglect to be reported. If you feel a loved one has suffered as a result of a failure in this regard, contact a skilled elder abuse attorney for an assessment of your case and your options for protecting your rights.

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