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When Nursing Home Residents Attack other Residents

Nursing home negligence can take many forms, from blatant disregard for safety and health precautions to accidental consequences of understaffing. Regardless of corporate ownership or economic status, however, all nursing homes have the legal duty to protect their residents from harm.

Unfortunately, sometimes aggressive residents pose risks to other, more vulnerable residents. Our elder abuse lawyers at Pintas & Mullins have seen first-hand how dire this risk can be, and would like to highlight ways to recognize when another resident poses a threat.

Know Your Rights

When a nursing home resident is harmed by a fellow resident, the facility, its employees or parent company can be held liable for their injuries. Nursing homes are obligated to protect their residents from all types of injury: from falls and wandering episodes to overmedication and physical threats by others.

Residents have an array of rights and protections under state and federal law, which they should receive in writing upon admission to the nursing home. Among these rights include the right to be free from physical, mental and emotional abuse. If another resident is known to be aggressive and act in violent manners, it is the facility’s responsibility to keep that person away from other residents.

Conversely, aggressiveness and irritability are normal symptoms of dementia, Alzheimer’s and other severe cognitive disorders, and oftentimes elderly residents do not realize they pose a safety threat to others. These residents have the same rights as everyone else in the facility, and must never be restrained with medications or physical straps. In cases where restraint is not necessary to treat medical symptoms, elderly residents may not be administered drugs to subdue them or “correct” unruly behavior. This is considered abuse.

A National Problem

Recently in Virginia, a female resident was attacked by another resident at Province Place of DePaul. According to the lawsuit filed against the facility, Province not only failed to protect the elderly resident from harm but attempted to cover up the incident as well. The victim, an 81-year-old woman with dementia, lived in the special care unit with the man who allegedly attacked her.

The man, who was known to be aggressive and who had attacked the woman once before, lived in a room near the woman’s and she would routinely pass by his room on walks around the facility. The man believed the woman had entered his room without permission, and one day attacked her, leaving her face swollen, bruised and bleeding from various wounds.

The facility notified her family of the incident, and when they arrived 20 minutes later found their loved one alone, bleeding and without assistance. They immediately took her to the emergency room, and the man was later discharged from the facility. The victim’s family claims that Province staff knew the woman routinely walked by the man’s room, which presented a foreseeable risk to her safety.

Investigators at the Virginia Department of Social Services found that staff failed to protect residents from the aggressive resident and, additionally, that the paperwork required to be completed after such an incident had not been filled out. Video surveillance systems were also found ineffective.

Above all, families of those in nursing homes trust that they are living in a safe, secure environment. When this immense trust and the responsibility that comes with it is violated, families are left feeling confused about their legal rights and options. Our team of elder abuse attorneys understands how complicated and sensitive these types of cases are, and have been working on nursing home negligence incidents for over two decades. We have the resources and experience necessary to passionately fight, investigate and litigate your case against the nursing home, and offer free legal consultations to potential clients nationwide.