It’s being said by elder law specialists that criminal offenders and mentally ill residents have caused an increase in patient-to-patient assaults at nursing homes. This growing violence has resulted in a rise in civil lawsuits by families of patients who have been assaulted by other residents. In a recent survey, Wes Bledsoe, founder of A Perfect Cause, a nonprofit nursing home residents’ advocacy group in Oklahoma, found 1,600 registered sex offenders in nursing homes. The organization documented more than 60 rapes, murders and assaults committed by criminal offenders in nursing homes. Mr. Bledsoe had this to say concerning this area of concern:
It’s a huge problem. The issue of nursing homes being dumping grounds is nothing new, and certainly for years we’ve had nursing homes serving not only the disabled and the elderly, but more people with mental illness, behavioral problems, drug rehabbers, alcohol rehabbers and criminal offenders being placed in these facilities by state agencies.
While there are no official figures on the numbers of mentally ill and criminal offenders being housed in nursing homes, a recent report by the Associated Press estimated that nearly 125,000 young and middle-aged adults with serious mental illnesses lived in U.S. nursing homes last year. Eric Carlson, a staff attorney at the National Senior Citizen Law Center in Los Angeles, said nursing homes that are having trouble filling their beds sometimes “start looking for residents, and get those residents from bad sources.” In many instances, the staff is not aware of a resident’s violent past. Because of health care privacy laws, the facility is not allowed to disclose information about a resident to other residents. Sadly, families often become aware that another resident has a history of violent behavior after their loved one is assaulted. Studies have shown that residents are being raped, physically assaulted and killed by other residents.
Jonathan Rosenfeld, a lawyer with the firm of Strellis & Field in Chicago, who is author of the nursinghomesabuse blog, says it’s not just young mentally ill residents or those with criminal records who act out violently in nursing homes. In addition to the young people who have some violent tendencies, “there are older people who have similar violent tendencies who are inter-mixed with the general population,” according to Mr. Rosenfeld. While some facilities have separate Alzheimer’s or dementia wards, many allow disturbed older residents who are prone to violence to mingle with other residents, he said.
I agree with Mr. Rosenfeld that once a nursing home becomes aware that a resident has behaved violently or has a propensity toward violence, the facility has an obligation to take steps to protect others. This is one of the most preventable areas of injuries and harm to nursing home residents. A nursing home operator has an obligation to make good admission decisions and to monitor residents’ safety.
Source: Lawyers USA
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