Senior Care Facilities Mix the Frail and the Disturbed
The nursing home Georgie Williams moved to in her 80s was supposed to be a haven from the deepening confusion of Alzheimer’s disease. The locked unit in the Windsor home did protect her for a while from things like leaving the stove on or wandering away. But on Feb. 16, 2013, danger came looking for her while she lay in bed. Another resident, a 77-year-old man with a history of dementia and hallucinations, entered her room, sat on her bed and pummeled her face, neck and arms, according to police and medical records. A nurse responding to Williams’ screams caught him with his fist drawn back. It took three nurses to pull him off. Williams’ experience is not commonplace in long-term care, but some experts say the danger is increasing as a widening mix of frail elderly people and those with behavior problems land in nursing homes, assisted living facilities, group homes and supportive-housing situations. Elder abuse brings to mind mistreatment by caregivers, but studies suggest resident-to-resident attacks are more common. A 2014 study by Cornell University found that 1 in 5 nursing home residents were involved in at least one aggressive encounter with fellow residents in the previous four weeks. A 2013 University of Pittsburgh study, funded by the Department of Justice, found that 13 percent of assisted living residents had been involved in arguments with other residents, 6 percent had experienced an aggressive act, and 4 percent were bullied.
David Wingate is an elder law attorney. He practices in Frederick and Montgomery Counties, Maryland. The elder law practice comprises of wills, powers of attorneys, trusts, asset protection and Medicaid.