Assault and Battery by the Nursing Home Staff

In many instances, nursing home residents may have decreased or lost their physical and cognitive abilities, and now have a childlike view of their world. The stresses and pressures of meeting the daily needs of these residents are multiplied by the pressures of the job: Inadequate time to perform daily chores, unceasing demands of residents, and a higher and higher work load with no relief from administration. In addition, some residents may make unreasonable demands of caregivers, and may even strike caregivers, without realizing what they are doing due to mental illness or the loss of their mental functions.

This could lead to a physical confrontation involving the caregiver and the patient.
Of course, this does not justify physically striking a patient; however, these types of situations can shed light on how this can develop. An assault can be simply verbal abuse, while battery occurs when there is unlawful physical contact. From these definitions, you can easily see that there is a very broad scope of behavior that falls under this category of nursing home abuse.

These can be extremely dangerous incidents, even involving the death of a patient. Also, these types of problems are often difficult to recognize and are often not properly reported. In one study, over one-third of the staff of a nursing home admitted witnessing physical abuse, and over 80% admitted to actually witnessing psychological abuse in the previous year.

Other figures may be more telling. Over one-half of a nursing home’s staff admitted to angrily yelling at a patient, and 17% said that they had taken a hold of (grabbed) or pushed a patient during a one-month time period.

So, if you are seeing bruises, abrasions, or lacerations on your relative who is a nursing home patient, do not ignore it. Some follow-up investigation may be needed to see if it truly is a nursing home abuse case, and what steps need to be taken at that point.

Injury Prevention Journal
Psychiatric Services Online; the American Psychiatric Association.
 Confronting Elder Mistreatment in Long-Term Care. Lisa M. Gibbs, MD, and Laura Mosqueda, MD.