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The Danger of Elder Abuse in Nursing Homes

A nursing home or care facility should be a place where elders not only receive proper medical attention, but also live without fear of assault or theft, both qualifying as elder abuse. The simple truth is that an elder care facility must provide a safe environment for its residents. When a senior citizen - one of our loved ones - is hurt in a care facility, the institution stands accountable for the wrongdoing.

Despite general impressions of elder abuse in nursing homes, the perpetrators of abuse are most often not the staff members. Rather, the greatest danger to senior citizens in nursing homes comes from the fellow residents. A major Cornell study released last year showed that one in five nursing home residents were subject to aggressive behavior over a period of just one month.

Elder care facilities become a zone of risk when physically able but mentally unstable residents are able to roam free and harm their neighbors. And as a recent in-depth article by the Virginian-Pilot's Elizabeth Simpson conveys, such negligence by the facilities translates to elder abuse by uncontrolled patients who pose a danger to others. Simpson relays the 2013 story of Georgie Williams, a grandmother in her 80s who was brutally beaten by another patient in her own bed and died eight weeks later. We also learn of the savage 2012 assault on 92-year-old Violette Compton by a 42-year-old man who was ruled criminally insane; Compton would die 10 months after the attack, and her family has never been compensated.

Many nursing home and care facility staff are often "underpaid and overworked" - a factor that often leads to inadequate supervision of patients. Yet our community's most vulnerable members, the elderly, have just as much a right to safety and protection as do children on school grounds.

Nursing homes must confront an outrageous institutional failure that places violent, mentally unstable patients under one roof with our elderly relatives and friends. None of these incidents are acceptable or excusable - it's high time for accountability.

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