In addition to conducting a background check on new patients, facilities must do a better job keeping tabs on existing patients who are simply to aggressive to violent to be housed at a facility with other frail people. Despite their grandfatherly (or grandmotherly) appearance, people with violent tendencies can be aggressive and cause harm to others– at any age.
Getting staff to recognize violence
Staff need to be tuned in to the fact that violence amongst the nursing home population is a real problem and just one person at a facility who acts inappropriately can cause serious harm to others around them. When staff see a patient who is verbally or physically aggressive, they need to bring such observations to their superiors. Administrators need to then conduct an assessment to determine if indeed the facility is capable of caring for the individual and for ensuring the safety of other patients at the facility.
Facility failing to intervene
Unfortunately, such identification and re-assessment measures are rarely employed at most skilled nursing facilities. While we’ve discussed violence amongst nursing home patients before, I began was particularly disturbed by the facts involving a recent incident at a Wisconsin Nursing Home. According to news reports, a 90-year-old patient at Franciscan Villa was sexually assaulted by another patient at the facility in January, 2009. Making the matter particularly disturbing is the fact that the incident occurred after the perpetrator was apprehended during an assault of another patient at the facility. Not surprisingly, the situation did lead to a civil lawsuit filed against the facility.
While the perpetrator was deemed to be mentally incompetent and transferred to a different facility following the second episode, I am suspicious if there were indeed earlier signs that this patient manifested during the weeks? months? prior to these attacks. Have represented several families in matters involving sexual assault of their loved ones, my experience is that staff members are simply never given any training or explanation of what should be done when they recognize verbal or physical aggression in patients.
A proactive approach is necessary
Facilities need to provide training for staff members that even some of the most innocent looking patients may have some aggressive tendencies which need to be identified and documented. Similarly, there are other patients who may develop such behaviors during their admission– perhaps in response to a medication, change in living arrangements or mental decline.
As we continue to see an expanding nursing home population with increasing diversity of patients, facilities must hone in on these issues in order to keep their facilities safe and free from abuse. As, we can see from the above situation, such omissions will similarly expose facilities to legal claims for their laissez faire conduct.
For additional information view our Wisconsin nursing home law page.