Nursing home abuse is, unfortunately, a problem that is not uncommon. There are many different types of abuse that nursing home residents may suffer, but perhaps the most blatant and deliberate type of physical abuse is assault and battery. Assault and battery on nursing home residents is most often committed by nursing home staff, but can be committed by family members or other patients.
Types of Assault and Battery in Nursing Homes
Assault and battery is any kind of physical abuse that causes harm to the patient. While this type of abuse is physical in nature, the psychological scars that it leaves on patients can be equally detrimental. Most nursing home patients are not physically capable of defending against assault and battery. In some cases patients may not be capable of alerting authorities, so this type of abuse can sometimes occur on a continual basis without repercussions to the abuser.
Types of assault and battery that may be inflicted on nursing home patients include:
- Unnecessary Force
- Sexual assault
Causes of Assault and Battery by Caregivers
Staff members often find it stressful to care for a person whose physical and mental state is deteriorating. Caregivers may experience frustration, and may lash out at patients. Lack of cooperation on the part of nursing home owners or the patient’s family members may increase stress and frustration levels, intensifying feelings of resentment towards patients.
Abusive Caregivers Contributing Factors
While abuse is inexcusable, some factors may make caregivers more likely to abuse nursing home patients. Depression and substance abuse may alter mental states and make caregivers more likely to assault patients. Years spent working with physically ailing patients can cause psychological issues in some, and lead to a lack of compassion and empathy.
Other Causes of Assault and Battery
If a patient is the victim of assault and battery by another patient, it indicates a level of neglect by caregivers. Patients may enact assault and battery upon one another if left unsupervised, while supervised care will usually prevent his type of abuse. Patients may not be in control of senses, and may not even realize the harm that is being inflicted on another.
When family visits, nursing home staff may be under the assumption that the patient is under safe supervision. This can result in assault and battery by family members going unnoticed. The same type of psychological issues as with staff members may cause family members to abuse nursing home patients. Family members may also feel justified in committing assault and battery if the now institutionalized family member committed domestic abuses in the past.
Nursing Home Abuse Risk Factors
An abuser must have an opportunity to commit assault and battery against a patient. Low staff levels and general isolation of the caregiver and patient increase the risk of assault and battery. High levels of interaction with other staff members and managers make it very difficult for assault and battery to go unnoticed.
Patient Risk Factors
Aggression on the part of the patient may spur a frustrated or mentally unstable individual to commit assault and battery against a patient. Mental incapacitation, such as dementia, may also increase the risk of assault and battery. The abuser may feel that the likelihood of facing consequences for the abuse is low if the patient is unable to seek help or effectively articulate what has occurred. This may also be the case if the patient is physically incapacitated and does not receive regular visits from people besides the abuser or abusers.
Preventing Assault and Battery
Assault and battery of nursing home residents can be prevented by caregivers, family members of the patient, or by the patient. Prior to entry in the nursing home, family members and the patient should tour the facility and interview staff members and residents to discern the level of care and determine the risk of abuse. After residence has been established, the patient should speak up about any perceived abuses.
Caregivers should watch residents for any signs of abuse, and report anything that seems out of the ordinary to management. Caregivers should be sure to deal patiently with residents, and leave the room or call for help if situations arise that may be construed as abuse. Family members of patients should speak to the patient often, and be alert for any signs of abuse.
Responding to Assault and Battery
If it is discerned that assault and battery has occurred or is ongoing, action should be taken immediately to remove the patient from the situation. Any marks should be documented as evidence of the assault and battery. An attorney should be consulted as soon as possible to ensure that the parties responsible for the abuse face consequences.
“Elder Abuse and Neglect.” HelpGuide.org. HeHelpGuide.org, n.d. Web. 13 Feb 2014. <http://www.helpguide.org/mental/elder_abuse_physical_emotional_sexual_neglect.htm>.
“Elder Abuse: Prevention Strategies.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 14 Jan 2014. Web. 13 Feb 2014. <http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/elderabuse/prevention.html>.
“Stop Abuse.” National Center on Elder Abuse. Department of Health and Human Services, n.d. Web. 13 Feb 2014. <http://www.ncea.aoa.gov/stop_abuse/index.asp&xgt;.