The New York Times recently reported that one in five nursing home residents is abused during admission according to a five-year study of more than 2,000 patients in ten large nursing homes throughout New York state. Perhaps more shocking is that much of that abuse comes at the hands of other patients.

Ascertaining the accuracy of reported abuse can be difficult due to patients’ poor memories, hearing, vision, and fear of retaliation. Cornell University researcher Dr. Karl Pillemer and his team used several methods to quantify the level of patient assaults, including extensive interviews with residents, aides, and primary caregivers as well as testing to determine patient moods and cognitive and functional ability. The research team spent up to six months in each facility observing the patients and thoroughly reviewed medical records.

The results of the study, presented to the Gerontological Society of America, are astonishing:

  • 16% of residents reported experiencing verbal abuse
  • 6% reported experiencing physical abuse
  • 3% reported experiencing sexual abuse
  • 5% of residents reported experiencing invasions of privacy or personal space or some other form of abuse

Nursing homes are filled with residents who frequently suffer from dementia, are uninhibited, or are unable to communicate in appropriate ways due to age, failing mental capacity, or pain. To protect victims, the report recommended that facilities implement policies and procedures to improve living conditions and alleviate overcrowding and congestion, hire additional staff, conduct training on resident aggression. Additionally, nursing homes can separate patients based on their mental or physical status, offer additional provide rooms, and properly diagnose and treat underlying conditions such as depression.  Failure to take appropriate action may become the bases of a medical malpractice or nursing home negligence lawsuit.

The attorneys in Sommers Schwartz’s Medical Malpractice Litigation Group have represented numerous patients and their families in lawsuits against nursing home and skilled care facilities. If you or someone you love has been injured as the result of abuse in a nursing facility, please give us a call – we’re here to help.