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Can a Care Facility Protect Its Residents from Each Other? (Part Two)

  Alan Fuchsberg  |  March 17, 2015  |  

We are talking about nursing homes and similar care facilities and their promise—their duty, really—to keep their residents safe. Traditionally, safety guidelines have addressed prevention of falls and hospital-acquired infections and abuse or neglect at the hands of the staff. An increasingly worrisome issue now is the risk of violence or aggressive acts among the residents and protecting nursing home residents from each other.

There is no single answer to the problem, no simple reason that one resident would attack another. Researchers have traced the issue in part to the fact that care facility populations often include the frail and elderly as well as younger residents with mental illness.

The facilities may not realize the risks involved with mixing the two populations. They may simply be running out of room. Remember, baby boomers are nearing retirement, and if providers are not preparing for an influx of old people, they could wind up with so many residents that segregating the aggressive patients could be too risky for the facilities’ bottom lines.

We are living longer, and more of us will be living with dementia and Alzheimer’s. We touched on this in our last post: The cognitive declines associated with these conditions and others can include aggressive periods; in some cases, it is just a stage, and it passes. In others, though, the anger, frustration and physical acting out may be a daily occurrence — at sunset, for example, when even sweet-natured patients with dementia can become agitated or outright hostile.

Identifying Aggressive Nursing Home Residents

The cyclical nature of these conditions, then, could preclude full separation. Even sophisticated screening tools cannot identify which patient will be complacent and which will be physically dangerous.

Screening tools can, however, uncover a history of violence or a history of the kind of mental illness that can lead to aggressive behavior. But this raises another question, one that goes more deeply into the country’s social conscience: Why are people with histories of mental illness looking for places in general residential treatment facilities? Aren’t their facilities devoted to their care?

The problem here could be payment sources. With state-run facilities closing for budgetary—and, perhaps, political—reasons, these populations are left only with private facilities. But not every facility will take on Medicaid patients. The ones that do may not have the resources to manage separate populations. As the saying goes, there may well be a star in the East before someone finds a solution—especially in time for 70 million baby boomers to start lining up outside their doors.

We invite you to read more about aggressive nursing home residents. To discuss your concerns about abuse by nursing home residents in New York, New Jersey, or Connecticut, we invite you to contact our law firm.

Data Source: The Virginian-Pilot/New America Media, “Elder Abuse Rising in Care Facilities Mixing the Frail and the Disturbed,” Elizabeth Simpson, Feb. 25, 2015

Categories: Nursing Homes

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