Resident-on-Resident Abuse in Nursing Homes – What it Is and Who May Be Liable

Posted by PKSD New Mexico Law Firm on May 14, 2024 in Nursing Home Abuse

elderly woman holding her face, upsetResident-on-resident abuse in a nursing home is not something that is talked about much. Often, it is easy to overlook and label this type of abuse as an accident. Below, we discuss more about resident-on-resident abuse in nursing homes, including what it is and what you can do about it.

Do you have concerns that your loved one is at risk for abuse in his or her nursing home? If so, we encourage you to contact our experienced nursing home abuse attorneys in Santa Fe to discuss your situation.

At PKSD New Mexico, we are committed to holding at-fault parties responsible for damages they have caused you and your loved one.

Request a FREE case review today. 505-677-7777

Is Resident-on-Resident Abuse Common in Nursing Homes?

This form of abuse, also called resident-on-resident aggression (RRA), occurs more frequently than many people realize. Studies show that as many as 20 percent of nursing home residents may experience some form of aggression from their peers.

The likelihood of RRA varies widely depending on other factors, such as the ratio of staff to residents, staff training and the facility itself.

What Is Resident-on-Resident Abuse?

Resident-on-resident abuse in nursing homes is the result of one resident harming another. This type of abuse can be physical, sexual, emotional or even financial.

Sometimes RRA may be caused by residents with mental conditions, such as dementia. They may not understand their actions. In other situations, however, a resident may deliberately target and attack another resident.

Resident-on-resident abuse can occur at any time and may include, but is not limited to:

  • Emotional abuse, such as name calling, bullying, public humiliation
  • Pushing, slapping, pinching, hitting, kicking or punching
  • Shouting at, cursing or other forms of verbal threats
  • Destroying another resident’s personal property
  • Throwing objects at another resident with intent to harm
  • Entering another resident’s room without gaining permission
  • Stealing or attempting to steal another resident’s belongings or money
  • Forcing unwanted touching or sexual advances on another resident
  • One resident exposing himself or herself to another resident
  • Sexually assaulting, raping or forcing another resident to perform sexual acts

Are There Risk Factors for Resident-on-Resident Abuse?

Several factors contribute to the likelihood of RRA in nursing homes. Cognitive impairment or mental disorders, such as dementia or Alzheimer’s are significant risk factors. These conditions can lead to confusion, frustration and aggressive behavior.

Many nursing homes have close living quarters and shared common spaces. These environmental stressors create prime areas where conflicts are more likely to occur. This is especially true if residents have incompatible personalities or if one resident perceives another as a threat.

Limited mobility is another key factor that makes certain residents easier targets for abuse. Sometimes residents run into personal clashes with other residents. These conflicts, especially when unresolved, can escalate into a physical or aggressive attack.

Understaffing, a longstanding issue in many nursing homes, can exacerbate these risks, creating more opportunities for abuse to occur.

Can a Nursing Home Be Liable for the Damages Caused by RRA?

Nursing homes are required to provide a safe environment for residents in their care. This includes protecting them from foreseeable harm, like attacks or abuse from other residents.

A nursing home may be considered negligent if it fails to try to prevent RRA or fails to respond, or adequately respond, to incidents of aggression.

Here are several scenarios in which a nursing home might be found liable for RRA:

  • Foreseeability: Nursing homes have a duty to identify residents that could be a threat to themselves and others. If, for instance, a resident has a history of aggressive behavior, the facility should oversee that resident’s interactions to ensure the safety of others. Failing to do so could be seen as a breach of their duty.
  • Inadequate Supervision: Nursing homes are tasked with supervising residents. If lack of supervision leads to an incident of RRA, the facility could be liable for any resulting harm.
  • Inadequate Staffing: If a facility fails to employ enough staff to oversee and care for the residents, aggressive behavior may go unchecked.
  • Failure to Implement Proper Care Plans: Facilities must assess each resident’s individual needs and risks and develop care plans accordingly. Neglecting to do so, particularly for residents known to be aggressive or vulnerable, can result in liability for incidents of RRA.
  • Violation of Regulations: Nursing homes are regulated by federal and state laws that set standards for resident care. Non-compliance with these regulations, resulting in harm from RRA, could also lead to liability.

In some cases, such as if a resident is not suffering from some cognitive or mental condition, a resident may share some liability for the damages he or she caused.

When RRA leads to injury or harm, affected parties may be able to seek compensation through legal claims against the facility. Such actions not only aim to address the damages suffered but also serve to enforce safety standards and prevent future occurrences.

Legal advice from an attorney specializing in elder law or personal injury can provide guidance specific to the circumstances of a case involving RRA.

How Can Nursing Homes Reduce the Risk of Residents Attacking Other Residents?

In addition to identifying specific residents more likely to create a threat or instigate an attack, other prevention strategies may include:

Providing Staff Training

Nursing homes have a duty to ensure their staff are trained on how to identify and understand both the risk factors for RRA and common causes. They should also be educated about how to identify warning signs and how to intervene if a resident becomes aggressive.

Promoting Relaxation and Calm in Common Spaces

Promoting environments that are more peaceful, such as providing calmer, quieter common areas can help.

Creating Unique Care Plans

Identifying residents who may be more likely to become aggressive and tailoring care plans to help address their specific needs.

What Signs Might Indicate My Family Member Was Harmed Due to RRA?

Visiting your loved one as often as possible, even through other means, such as video calls, can help. The more often you see them, the easier it will be to recognize when things are “off” with your loved one.

Physical indicators to look for may include:

  • Unexplained bruising, scratches or other injuries
  • Distinct behavioral changes, such as being more fearful or withdrawing from social interactions
  • Sudden changes in mood could be an indication that someone has harmed your loved one
  • Notice whether your loved one seems distressed or fearful, especially around certain residents or staff

If you notice any atypical behavior or unexplained injuries, it is important to investigate further. You should also speak with care providers at the facility about your concerns.

Need Legal Help for a Suspected Case of RRA? Call PKSD Today

Seeking legal help is highly recommended if you believe the safety and well-being of your loved one is in jeopardy. Your family member should not have to live in fear from another resident at the facility.

We encourage you to consult with PKSD New Mexico for legal help in Santa Fe. Our firm has been advocating for victims of elder abuse for decades and have a history of proven results.

Your initial consultation is completely free, and there are no upfront costs to pay. We only get paid if you do.

Experienced Lawyers. Fighting for you. 505-677-7777

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