Who Is Liable for Nursing Home Bullying?

Published on September 17, 2018, by Matthew Sharp

Nursing Home Abuse

Who Is Liable for Nursing Home Bullying?

Bullying incidents create a chaotic living environment for residents and injury liabilities for nursing home facilities. In nursing homes, up to 20 percent of residents experience bullying and hostile, disruptive, and inappropriate behaviors by other residents.

Resident-to-Resident Abuse

Negligence or the failure to use reasonable care as required by state and federal laws will likely leave a nursing home facility or staff open to liability for resident injuries that occur. Research from Cornell Medical Center shows that aggressive behaviors like bullying, yelling, pushing, and fighting are a common problem between nursing home residents. Acts of physical and verbal abuse, invasion of privacy, and inappropriate sexual conduct create injury liabilities for nursing home facilities.

Studies were conducted at 10 New York State skilled nursing home facilities with more than 2,000 residents. Researchers conducted a direct observation of residents and staff interviews, and completed special questionnaires for residents and staff members. Findings showed that resident-to-resident aggressive behaviors affected 19.8 percent of residents during a 30 day period. Incidents included:

  • Verbal Abuse – (16 percent) – Incidents of verbal abuse such as bullying, cursing, yelling, and screaming created the highest number of resident-to-resident problems.
  • Invasion of Privacy – (10.5 percent) – Residents were often found entering other residents’ rooms uninvited and going through their personal possessions without permission.
  • Physical Attacks – (5.7 percent) – Many residents suffered physical attacks from other residents such as hitting or slapping, kicking, and biting.
  • Sexual Misconduct – (1.3 percent) – Incidents of sexual misconduct between residents included inappropriate touching, exposing of genitals, and attempting to gain sexual favors.

Bullying and aggressive behaviors by elderly nursing home residents may be caused by various factors. In many cases, medical conditions like dementia and Alzheimer’s are to blame for aggressive behaviors. Dementia and Alzheimer’s cause cognitive dysfunction that often affects a person’s perception of reality. In other cases, seniors who feel trapped and depressed may bully others to relieve their own frustrations. Many residents in nursing homes act out to exhibit independence, because they feel their own independence has been taken away. Seniors who were victims of bullying in younger years may bully vulnerable peers in their older years.

Many incidents of resident-to-resident elder abuse go undetected by staff members, especially in larger skilled nursing home facilities. Research studies suggest that keeping residents busy with physical activities and social interactions will promote better sleep patterns and reduce anxiety levels and aggressive behaviors in residents.