Many of us are aware that seniors can face dangers in nursing homes. Residents can receive poor medical care, be given the wrong medications or simply be neglected. Recent data however shows a rise in new and unexpected promises including assaults, rape and even murder.
In 2000, there were 5,000 cases of patient-on-patient assaults on nursing homes; by 2003 (the most recent year for which statistics are available), this number has risen to 5,515. During the same period, the number of rapes increased by 51%.
Individuals whose loved ones reside in nursing homes should be aware of the potential for violent assaults. There are a number of reasons for this increase in attacks on the elderly. As the population ages, nursing homes have become more crowded. More people suffer from dementia or mental illness, which sometimes can cause them to lash out violently. Some nursing homes house younger, mentally ill patients with older, defenseless elderly residents. Finally, some nursing home residents are criminals, sex offenders, murderers and or they hire individuals with criminal backgrounds.
Usually, its’ the criminal that commits the act. In many cases however, these assaults lead to civil suits against the nursing homes, based on the claim that the nursing home was negligent for not keeping a dangerous resident away from the victim, not taking the time to determine which residents are potentially dangerous, failure to adequately perform criminal background checks on its employees and or supervise them properly. The lawsuits argue that a nursing home should be aware of these things and that it should take steps to protect residents from assaults once it knows that a particular person presents some kind of danger to others.
Nursing homes often try to hide behind health-care privacy laws by claiming that they prevent them from issuing warnings about other dangerous residents. Sometimes these companies cite inconsistent state laws or that the costs of background checks are too high for them to bear. Advocates for the elderly are more likely to cite under staffing, incompetence, and an unwillingness to admit that there are even problems. Whatever the causes, individuals whose loved ones reside in nursing homes should be aware of the potential for violent assaults and not be afraid to ask hard questions of the nursing home’s management and its staff.