Two studies from Cornell University in the United States have reported that resident-on-resident aggression is widespread and problematic.
According to one of the papers, close ten per cent of nursing home residents report experiencing aggression from another resident.
The studies identified 35 different types of physical and verbal abuse between residents at a large, urban nursing home.
The most common form of aggression was screaming, followed by acts of physical violence, such as pushing, punching and fighting.
Related research found that 2.4 per cent of residents reported personally experiencing physical aggression from another resident, while 7.3 per cent reported experiencing verbal aggression in a two-week period.
Most respondents rated the events as moderately or extremely disruptive to daily activities.
“Given that nursing homes are environments where people live close together, and many residents have lowered inhibitions because of dementia, such incidents are not surprising,” said Karl Pillemer, director of the Cornell Institute for Translational Research.
“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.”
In another study, 12 nurse-observers identified 30 episodes of resident-to-resident aggression in an eight hour shift. Seventeen of the incidents involved physical violence.
According to the literature, victims are more likely to be male, have behavioral problems like wandering and be cognitively impaired.
The researchers have called for more research in the area.