An aged care provider study has found that abuse between residents typically involves people with cognitive impairment and does not result in physical harm.
The research from Victorian provider Benetas explored the prevalence, nature, contributing factors and outcomes of resident‐to‐resident abuse over 12 months across 13 homes with over 900 beds.
It concluded that managing behavioural symptoms associated with cognitive impairment was critical to preventing and managing resident-to-resident abuse.
The study identified 169 incidents, most of which were physical (106) followed by verbal (34) then sexual (29).
Physical abuse most commonly involved a punch or strike (28 per cent) or a grab, pull, poke or scratch (21 per cent).
The most common sexual abuse involved kissing on the face or mouth (48 per cent).
Most incidents occurred in the dining room (31 per cent) or other communal areas (46 per cent).
Lead researcher Dr Catherine Joyce said they found that in nine out of 10 cases of aggressive behaviour, the resident had a notable cognitive impairment.
“This behaviour is largely displayed by people who are living with dementia or a form of Alzheimer’s, and who often experience poor impulse control and limited capacity to express themselves when they’re in pain or discomfort.
“People living with these diseases can also often have poor insight into the impact that their behaviour has on others,” said Dr Joyce, general manager of quality, outcomes and research at Benetas.
The research also found that one third of residents displaying aggression were involved in one incident of abuse, and 79 per cent of cases incurred little to no harm.
“Discussion of abuse can be alarming, but what we need to remember it is that in this instance it’s usually not deliberate and it requires effective clinical and behaviour management,” Dr Joyce said.
Call for behavioural management over reporting
Dr Joyce said Benetas undertook this research to better understand the prevalence of abuse between residents and the contributing factors that cause it.
“We’re very serious about achieving zero incidents of resident to resident abuse at Benetas.”
The findings come in the lead up to a new compulsory scheme for reporting serious incidents of aggression between residents in aged care.
The Department of Health is in the final stages of developing the Serious Incident Response Scheme (SIRS) following a public consultation last year (read our backgrounder here).
Dr Joyce said additional Government reporting requirements for these incidents would not reduce harms for residents.
“What we need is for services to proactively record cases, ensure that care is tailored to people’s individual needs and preferences, and proactively monitor residents to detect any changes in their circumstances.”
The research Prevalence and nature of resident‐to‐resident abuse incidents in Australian residential aged care was published online recently in the Australasian Journal on Ageing.
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