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Can Nursing Homes Be Held Liable for Altercations Between Residents?

December 15, 2023

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If a loved one in a nursing home is injured due to an altercation with another resident, taking legal action may be necessary to ensure justice is served. Nursing home abuse is a growing problem in America, impacting many older individuals each year.  In this article, we'll delve into a specific type of nursing home abuse known as resident-to-resident aggression. We’ll provide an overview of the factors contributing to these incidents, discuss the legal repercussions, and explain how a Cleveland nursing home abuse lawyer can assist victims with determining who should ultimately be held responsible.

What Is Resident-to-Resident Aggression?

The term Resident-to-Resident Aggression (RRA) refers to various forms of aggression between residents in nursing homes or long-term care facilities. These incidents include physical, verbal, sexual, and psychological confrontations, ranging from minor disputes to severe assaults that can lead to injuries or, in some tragic cases, fatalities.

The World Health Organization (WHO) provides a concerning but relevant statistic: approximately 1 in 6 individuals aged 60 or above have faced some form of abuse in community settings within the last year. The rate of abuse in institutional settings like nursing homes is troubling, with 2 out of 3 staff members admitting that they had committed some act of abuse within the past year.

Types of Resident-to-Resident Aggressions

According to a study conducted by the National Center on Elder Abuse, common types of RRA reported by nursing home staff are:

  • Verbal aggression
  • Physical aggression
  • Invasion of privacy and personal space
  • Sexual aggression

Risk Factors for Resident-to-Resident Altercations

Many factors can increase the likelihood of RRA occurring in nursing homes, such as:

  1. Cognitive Impairment: Residents with dementia or other cognitive impairments may have difficulty communicating, understanding, or controlling their impulses, leading to frustration, confusion, and even physical aggression.
  2. Behavioral Problems: Residents with psychiatric disorders, personality disorders, or substance abuse issues may exhibit disruptive, violent, or inappropriate behaviors that can provoke or escalate conflicts with other residents.
  3. Environmental Stressors: Residents may experience stress due to overcrowding in the facility, excess noise, lack of privacy, boredom, loneliness, or other unmet needs. These stressors affect mood and reduce healthy coping skills.
  4. Staffing Issues: Nursing home staff may be insufficiently trained, overworked, underpaid, or burned out, which can compromise their ability to provide quality care and prevent or intervene in RRA situations.

Physical and Psychological Consequences of Resident-to-Resident Assault

RRA can have severe and lasting effects on the victims. Some of the possible consequences are:

  • Physical Injuries: RRA can cause bruises, cuts, fractures, infections, or even, in severe cases, death.
  • Psychological Distress: RRA can cause anxiety, depression, fear, anger, shame, guilt, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in victims.
  • Reduced Quality of Life: RRA can affect the victims' social relationships, self-esteem, autonomy, dignity, and satisfaction with their living environment.

Nursing Home Facilities Have a Responsibility to Residents

Nursing home facilities are legally and ethically responsible for offering residents a safe and comfortable environment. Facilities must comply with federal and state regulations that protect the rights and welfare of older people. Some of these regulations include:

  • Conducting background checks on staff and residents
  • Maintaining adequate staffing levels and supervision
  • Implementing policies and procedures to prevent and report abuse
  • Providing staff with training and education on RRA prevention and intervention
  • Offering medical and mental healthcare for residents
  • Respecting the privacy and preferences of residents
  • Encouraging social activities and interactions among residents

Proving Negligence

If RRA has affected you or a loved one in a nursing home facility, you may be able to file a lawsuit against the facility for negligence. Negligence means that one party disregards their duty of care, causing injury to a patient under their care. To prove negligence, you must be able to show that:

  1. The nursing home facility owed you or your loved one a duty of care.
  2. The nursing home facility breached that duty by failing to prevent or stop RRA.
  3. Breaching the duty of care caused you or your loved one injury or damage.
  4. The injuries or damages are measurable and compensable.

Proving negligence can be daunting due to the complex legal rules involved. Consider retaining the services of a nursing home abuse lawyer to help with your claim. An attorney will help protect your rights and ensure you get the compensation you deserve.

Compensation for Nursing Home Abuse

If you can prove negligence, you may be entitled to compensation for the damages you or your loved one suffered due to RRA. These damages could include compensation for:

  • The cost of treating the physical and mental injuries caused by the RRA event. Treatment costs include doctor visits, hospital bills, medications, therapy, and surgery.
  • The burden of having to deal with new mental health diagnoses caused as a consequence of the RRA. These diagnoses include anxiety, depression, fear, anger, and PTSD.
  • Losing the ability to enjoy normal activities and hobbies, such as socializing, exercising, or traveling, due to the RRA.
  • Willful or malicious conduct can result in punitive compensation awarded to the plaintiff to deter future abuse.

Our Team Can Help

If you or someone close to you has been a victim of resident-to-resident aggressions (RRA) in a nursing home, seeking support from a skilled and empathetic nursing home abuse lawyer in Cleveland is essential. At Nurenberg, Paris, Heller & McCarthy, we bring our over 90 years of experience advocating for injured individuals to the table, ensuring our clients receive the justice and compensation that is rightfully theirs. Don't let nursing home abuse go unpunished. Contact us today for a free and confidential consultation. We will review your case, answer your questions, and advise you on your best legal recourse.

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