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Common resident scuffles lead to physical injury

March 12, 2012
by Kathleen Mears
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I heard whispers before breakfast that John (pseudonym) had been hurt by his roommate, Payne (pseudonym), who had been here for a week or so. Although he was short with residents and staff, he had not been violent.

When I arrived in the dining room, I saw that John's left eye was blackened and swollen shut. He is traumatically brain injured and can move some. But he uses a geri-chair and needs assistance with everything.

As I watched John during breakfast, I knew his eye had to hurt. Many of the aides were angry that he had been injured. John is not an angel. He can hit with his good hand and kick with his good leg. But his ability to defend himself is limited, and I wonder if he somehow provoked his roommate.

It is obvious that Payne has a cognitive or mental health problem. When staff talked with him, he showed no remorse and no signs of engaging in a struggle. John was, however, moved out of their semi-private room.

Scuffles are common here. They sort of come in spurts of two or three. If a resident is loud and another resident does not like it, a slap or hit may be the result. One male resident has had a few facial bruises because of his persistent yelling.

I understand that people in the community get assaulted every day. But I do not think it is something that people consider possible when they come to a nursing home.

When I first moved into a long-term care facility, I had a private room. Security was less of a concern even though wanderers did come in my living space. But here in this “behavioral” facility, most of us have a roommate and sometimes residents have a great deal of difficulty getting along. Living with a roommate changes the dynamic of each resident's life and their ability to be safe.

I do not envy the nurse who had to inform John's family about the incident and his injury. He is healing, but danger lurks when residents who dislike each other live so closely together.

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Hi Kathleen,

I'm sorry to hear of the incident you reported. It's distressing for everyone, including the residents and staff observing the interaction or its results. You might be interested in the series I'm running on my website on Senior Bullying. Recent posts addressed behaviors such as you described, and we'll be covering interventions to reduce bullying in the next few weeks.

Best,

Dr. El

Eleanor Feldman Barbera, PhD
http://mybetternursinghome.com

Kathleen Mears

www.ltlmagazine.com/blog/kathleen-mears

Kathleen Mears has been a nursing home resident in Ohio for 20 years. She is an incomplete...