Attorneys Fighting for Victims of Patient-on-Patient Attacks Nursing Homes

elderly lady with a black eye

Violence in nursing homes and hospitals is terrifying. The most common form of violence in long term care facilities is patient on patient abuse, also referred to as resident to resident elder mistreatment (RREM).

Nursing homes and hospitals house patients with a wide variety of mental health issues. 80% of all nursing home residents are cognitively impaired. Many residents with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease can become combative. Due to their underlying conditions, these residents can become violent and attack other patients.

Nursing homes are required by law to screen all incoming residents, as well as train staff in dealing with patients with violent propensities. Part of a nursing home’s responsibilities include making sure that existing residents and new residents co-exist safely. If a resident poses a threat to themselves or others, the situation must be handled before someone gets seriously hurt or killed. If a nursing home cannot care for someone due to their violent tendencies, they are required to send the resident out to a different facility. Intentionally keeping a violent resident so that occupancy remains high is a form of nursing home negligence.

If a nursing home or hospital fails to remove and/or isolate violent patients, patient-on-patient assaults can occur. Resident on resident violence can take many forms, including patient on patients fights, sexual assaults and rape.

Simply because the abuse came from another resident does not absolve the facility of liability. Following patient-on-patient abuse, a full investigation should be performed by a medical malpractice attorney. Specifically, as lawyers, we look for other incidents involving the violent resident. If there is a pattern of violence, the facility should have done something to prevent future attacks. If the facility ignored the warning signs, they may be held responsible for the harm to the abused patient.

Signs of Elderly Abuse

Aggressive Patient Behavior ‘Red Flags’

  • Yelling
  • Scratching
  • Shoving
  • Swearing
  • Tantrums
  • Punching
  • Sexually inappropriate behavior
  • Throwing items
  • Kicking and biting

Triggers for Patient Attacks in Demented/Alzheimer’s Patients

  • forced conversation
  • delays, lines
  • dementia (fear, not knowing what is happening)
  • hunger
  • pain
  • medication changes
  • psychiatric illness (anxiety, delusions)
  • decreased sleep
  • depression
  • changes in environment

If a Resident becomes Combative, Nursing Home Staff Should:

  • Decrease stimuli by removing everyone from the room. Ideally, there should be 1 veteran staff member calming the agitated resident.
  • Make intermittent eye contact; do not stare.
  • Use facial animation. Raise your eyebrows. Smile.
  • Use a calm voice. Do not yell. Do not meet violence with violence.
  • Maintain a distance; do not crowd
  • Do not make sudden movements.
  • Try not to touch the violent patient. If you are going to touch them, let them know and move your hand slowly towards them.
  • Redirect them with positive goals. “Let’s go get a snack.”
  • Chart the RREM. Analyze whether this was a first time incident with the attacking resident, or whether it is becoming a pattern of behavior.
  • If the threatening behavior is becoming a pattern, a care plan meeting must be held to determine if the facility can keep its other residents safe from attack from this resident. If not, the violent resident should be sent out of the facility.
  • The violent resident should be closely monitored to prevent future assaults. Individuals involved in the altercation should be separated in the future.

Patient on Patient Attacks: Can I Sue the Facility for These Injuries?

When a family comes to our office seeking legal advice on resident on resident assaults, we are often asked if the nursing home facility can be held responsible. Since it was not nursing home staff, but another resident, who did the physical harm, can the facility still be held liable in a nursing home abuse lawsuit? The answer is yes. A nursing home can be held responsible for one of its residents violent assaults if:

  • The nursing home or hospital knew, or should have known, that the attacking resident had violent tendencies;
  • A violent outburst or assault from the resident was foreseeable, given his/her prior behavior; and,
  • The nursing home or hospital failed to do anything to prevent the foreseeable violent attack.

Common patient attack injuries that result in nursing home litigation are:

More Questions Regarding Your Patient Attack Lawsuit against a Nursing Home?

If you have more questions as to whether your victim’s injury involves a preventable patient-on-patient attack, contact our elder abuse attorneys now for your free consultation at 1-844-253-8919.

Sources:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4178932/

http://weill.cornell.edu/news/pr/2014/11/study-highlights-prevalence-of-mistreatment-between-nursing-home-residents-pillemer-lachs.html

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26026215

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17537083

http://theconsumervoice.org/uploads/files/issues/Feb22016_Webinar_Slides.pdf

Crying old lady