Resident-on-resident violence a growing problem

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Resident-on-resident violence in nursing homes has caused an increasing number of complaints and sparked growing concern among administrators. The recent slaying of a Stamford, CT, nursing home resident by his roommate has helped cast a wide spotlight on a growing problem in facilities nationwide, according to the Associate Press.

Ombudsman programs fielded more than 3,700 complaints about resident-on-resident abuse in 2002. That's up by nearly 50% from the 2,500 complaints in 1997.

Violent situations between residents occur on a constant basis and can even cause deaths, noted Janet Wells, the director of public policy for the National Citizens Coalition for Nursing Home Reform.

Providers seem to have acknowledged the problem, offering more seminars and programs to address it. In the past, concerns mostly centered on residents harming staff members, or vice versa.

Administrators are also looking into tougher screening of residents as a viable prevention option. More staff and better training also would allow providers to recognize warning signs and provide a constant environment in which patients with dementia feel comfortable, said Toby Edelman, attorney for the Center for Medicare Advocacy.

Many of the residents causing the problems have dementia caused by advanced forms of diseases such as Alzheimer's disease who become agitated by change or sudden activity and cannot respond otherwise, according to the Alzheimer's Association.

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