The thought that your loved one, who resides in a nursing home, could be subjected to abuse is scary. Even more frightening is the fact that it could be at the hands of another resident. But who is liable for resident-on-resident abuse in nursing homes?


The Responsibility of Nursing Home Facilities


Nursing homes have a duty of care to prioritize resident safety and well-being, specifically in cases of resident-on-resident abuse. To fulfill this responsibility, nursing homes should take preventive measures, promptly address any instances of abuse, and create a safe environment.

In failing to prevent, recognize, or take action against resident-on-resident abuse, nursing homes can be held liable. Therefore, it is crucial for them to establish protocols, train staff to identify warning signs and act upon them accordingly.

Recognizing the signs of abuse is vital. This includes physical harm, unexplained bruises, behavioral changes, or financial irregularities. Nursing home staff should be vigilant and take appropriate action, holding nursing homes accountable by reporting these warning signs to relevant agencies.

Once abuse is suspected or confirmed, nursing homes must act swiftly to prevent further instances. Actions may include separating the involved residents, providing counseling, and documenting interventions taken to mitigate future harm.

Upholding their duty of care, nursing homes must ensure resident safety and well-being by proactively preventing any form of abuse and responding appropriately.


The Responsibility of Individual Staff Members


Nursing homes have a team of staff members responsible for resident care. Each staff member has a responsibility to ensure that residents are safe from abuse, including resident-on-resident abuse. They should be observant and take note of any incidents of abuse that they witness or suspect. Staff members have a duty to report incidents of abuse to their superiors and take steps to prevent further abuse from occurring. Failure to do so could incur legal liability, as well as put other residents at risk of harm.

Another party that may be liable for resident-on-resident abuse is the nursing home itself. Nursing homes have a duty to provide a safe environment for residents, and that includes taking steps to prevent abuse. This can include things like ensuring that there is enough staff on duty at all times, providing training to staff members on how to prevent and recognize abuse, and implementing a reporting system for incidents of abuse.


The Responsibility of Residents


When it comes to preventing resident-on-resident abuse in nursing homes, it is important to recognize that residents also have a responsibility to uphold. While staff members and the facility itself play a significant role in creating a safe and respectful environment, residents must also do their part. Ensuring that they respect each other’s rights and avoid behavior that could cause harm is essential. Additionally, following the facility’s policies and participating in any abuse prevention programs or training is crucial. It is important for residents to understand that engaging in abusive behavior toward another resident can result in serious consequences, including legal action or eviction. Education and training on how to prevent and respond to abuse is essential for all nursing home residents to uphold their responsibility to create a safe and respectful community.


Legal Liability


When it comes to legal liability for resident-on-resident abuse, it can be a complex area. Under the law, nursing homes can be held responsible for their failure to prevent resident-on-resident abuse. If a nursing home facility or individual staff member is negligent in their duty of care, resulting in resident-on-resident abuse, they can be held liable for damages incurred. Additionally, individual residents who engage in abusive behavior can also be held liable for their actions and can face criminal charges.


What types of resident-on-resident abuse occur at nursing homes? 


While it may not be as prevalent as abuse by caregivers, abuse between residents occurs as well. There are multiple types of abuse that one resident can inflict on another resident at a nursing home, including:


Physical Abuse


This is the most common type of resident-on-resident abuse that occurs in nursing homes. Physical abuse is when one resident inflicts physical harm on another resident. This could be in the form of slapping, hitting, kicking, or pushing. Physical abuse can result in serious injuries and even death. Examples of physical abuse can range from hitting, slapping, pushing, or kicking, and it can result in severe injuries and even death. In 2022, the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) conducted a survey that highlighted the prevalence of physical abuse among nursing home residents. The survey conducted by the Department of Health and Human Services found that 47% of nursing home residents had experienced physical abuse at the hands of another resident.


Psychological Abuse


This type of abuse is less visible but equally damaging. Psychological abuse involves verbal threats, intimidation, isolation, and other forms of emotional trauma. A resident can use psychological abuse to control or dominate another resident, causing them fear, distress, and anxiety.


Sexual Abuse


Sexual abuse is any unwanted sexual behavior that occurs without the victim’s consent. Sexual abuse can occur between two residents in a nursing home. The abuser may use force, threats, or manipulation to commit sexual abuse. This type of abuse can be traumatic for the victim and can result in physical and emotional injuries.


Financial Abuse


Financial abuse occurs when a resident manipulates or exploits another resident to obtain money or other forms of property. This could be through identity theft, coercion, or fraud. Financial abuse can deprive a resident of their property and leave them with nothing. It can also cause emotional harm to the victim.


What are the warning signs of abuse at a nursing home?


Abuse might have plenty of signs or none at all, but they will differ with the type of abuse.

Abuse can have various signs or even none at all, depending on the type. Here are some insights into different types of abuse and their identification:


1. Physical abuse:

– Recognizable through injuries like bruises, scrapes, cuts, fractures, sprains, scratches, or restraint marks.
– Frequent occurrence of these injuries on your loved one warrants further investigation.


2. Sexual abuse:

– Can be identified through injuries or trauma to the genital area, infections, or sexually transmitted diseases.
– Promptly contact the nursing home staff if you or your loved one notice any of these symptoms.


3. Financial or material abuse:


– A commonly observed form of elder abuse.
– Recognizable by missing items, inconsistencies in bank or investment account balances, missing credit cards or checks, and high credit card balances.
– Contact nursing home administrators to investigate if you suspect your loved one is a victim.


4. Emotional or psychological abuse:


– Another form of elder abuse.
– Can be recognized by increased anxiety or depression, unexplained confusion or disorientation, hypervigilance, evasiveness, shame, fearfulness, or agitation, particularly around a specific resident.
– Watch out for these symptoms in your loved one, as they may indicate resident-on-resident abuse.


What should I do if my loved one is a victim of resident-on-resident abuse at a nursing home?


If you suspect your loved one is the victim of nursing home abuse, it is critical to take immediate action. Ensure their safety and report the abuse to the facility’s management. Once you have secured their well-being, it is time to consider filing a claim. Gallon, Takacs & Boissoneault, an Ohio and Michigan law firm, offers a free consultation with a nursing home abuse lawyer to evaluate your options. Proving your claim requires evidence, which can be challenging to obtain. But don’t let that deter you. Our attorneys will collect the evidence and build your case to prove abuse by another resident. If you need help, we are here to support you. Call us today at 419-843-6333 or online to discuss your case.