Some Overlooked Types of Nursing Home Abuse

April 21, 2016

Charges are pending against an 87-year-old man who allegedly fatally assaulted an 82-year-old woman; the individuals were residents at the same nursing home.

 

Workers at Golden View Health Care in Meredith did not intervene quickly enough to prevent Donald Sleeper from attacking Barbara Whittier; both Mr. Sleeper and Ms. Whittier are patients in the Alzheimer’s ward. Following an autopsy, the coroner ruled that Ms. Whittier died from coronary heart failure brought on by attempted strangulation. Dr. Karl Pillemer, a gerontology professor at Weill Cornell, observed that dementia patients often feel frustrated by their illnesses and lack of mobility, and these feelings can manifest themselves in violent outbursts. He suggests that, to help prevent these instances, nurses spend extra time with dementia patients to ease their anxieties and recognize potential risk factors.

 

Mr. Sleeper, who had been a Golden View resident since 2015, has been transferred to another facility; Ms. Whittier is survived by her husband and their four children.

 

Resident on Resident Abuse

 

About one in 10 residents have experienced some form of resident on resident abuse. The actual percentage is probably much higher, because such incidents often go unobserved and unreported. Sometimes, petty differences between residents simmer and eventually boil over; other times, one resident wanders into another patient’s room, and that person takes offense at the invasion of privacy.

 

Many residents are so frail that it only takes a small amount of physical or verbal force to cause significant physical or emotional injury. Some risk factors involved are:

 

  • Low Staffing Levels: Understaffed facilities are less able to police resident disputes and often unable to respond to emergencies.

 

  • Crowded Conditions: Many nursing facilities accept a large number of patients for financial reasons, and the limited personal space sometimes makes dementia patients feel trapped.

 

  • Desensitization: Because these conflicts occur so frequently, many staff people simple do not care and write off risk factors as everyday occurrences.

 

Researchers suggest that, unless nursing homes change the way they do business, resident on resident violence will get worse in coming years.

 

Guardianship Abuse

 

In addition to tolerating abuse, nursing home staffs are often the instigators of such conduct, especially when it comes to financial abuse. One particularly disturbing trend is the rise of fraudulent guardianships.

 

Some nursing facilities use their control over the medical aspects of their residents’ lives to try and take control over their money as well. Such an attempt is particularly likely if the facility and family are ever involved in a billing dispute.

 

Contested guardianship proceedings are technically possible in South Carolina. And, even if they do not succeed, the family is forced to spend large amounts of money in court and endure emotional suffering. Both these losses are compensable damages in a nursing home abuse negligence case.

 

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