Researchers: Nursing home residents attacking each other more often than expected

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Nursing home residents are lashing out at each other verbally, physically and in other ways more often than previously believed, according to Cornell University-based researchers.

"Because of the nature of nursing home life, it is impossible to eliminate these abusive behaviors entirely, but we need better scientific evidence about what works to prevent this problem," said Karl Pillemer, director of the Cornell Institute for Translational Research on Aging at the College of Human Ecology.

Studies led by Pillemer and professor of medicine Mark S. Lachs, MD, at a large, city-based nursing home discovered 35 different types of physical and verbal abuse between residents. Screaming was the most common form, followed by pushing, punching and fighting.

Researchers also found in another two-week study period that 2.4% of residents said their were on the receiving end of physical aggression, while 7.3% said they had been verbally assaulted.

Yet another investigation revealed 30 episodes of resident-to-resident aggression, with a greater likelihood victims would be male and more prone to have wandering or cognitive processing problems.

More research is needed to discover risk factors and possible preventive steps, researchers said. The studies are discussed in greater detail in articles in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, and the publication Aggression and Violent Behavior.