Peer-on-Peer Abuse in Nursing Homes More Common than Believed

Nursing home abuse and neglect is not always perpetrated by staff members. New research from Cornell University suggests that aggression and violence between residents may be more prevalent than abuse or mistreatment from nursing home employees.

According to the study, peer-on-peer abuse is nursing home is a problem that has received little attention.

“Given that nursing homes are environments where people live close together, and many residents have lowered inhibitions because of dementia, such incidents are not surprising,” said Karl Pillemer of Cornell. “Because of the nature of nursing home life, it is impossible to eliminate these abusive behaviors entirely, but we need better scientific evidence about what works to prevent this problem.”

The Cornell research examined a large urban nursing home and found 35 different types of verbal and physical abuse between residents. The most commonly found aggressive behavior was screaming, followed by physical violence such as pushing, punching, or fighting. A related study found that 2.4 percent of the residents had personally experienced physically assault from another resident, and more than twice that had experienced verbal aggression.

The authors of the study hope that their findings will assist nursing home staff better manage aggressive behavior among residents.