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Nursing Home Assaults


Many of us are aware that seniors can face dangers in nursing homes. Residents can receive substandard medical care, be given the wrong medications, or simply be neglected. However, recent data show a rise in new and unexpected problems--assaults, rape, and even murder.

In 2000, there were 5,000 cases of patient-on-patient assaults in nursing homes; by 2003 (the most recent year for which statistics are available), this number had risen to 5,515. During the same period, the number of rapes increased by 51%.

There are a number of reasons for this increase in attacks on the elderly. As the population ages, nursing homes have become more crowded. More people suffer from dementia or mental illness, which sometimes can cause them to lash out violently. Some nursing homes house younger, mentally ill patients with older, defenseless elderly residents. Finally, some nursing home residents are criminals, elderly sex offenders, or murderers.

Usually, the person responsible for a criminal act is the criminal. However, in many cases, these assaults lead to civil suits against the nursing homes, based on the claim that the nursing home was negligent for not keeping a dangerous resident away from the victim or for not taking the time to determine which residents are potentially dangerous. The suits argue that a nursing home should be aware of these things and that it should take steps to protect residents from assaults once it knows that a particular person presents some kind of danger to others.

Nursing homes often point to health-care privacy laws and claim that these laws prevent them from issuing warnings about other residents. They also sometimes cite inconsistent state laws or claim that the costs of background checks and the like are too high for them to bear.

Advocates for the elderly are more likely to cite understaffing, incompetence, and an unwillingness to admit that there is a problem. Whatever the cause, individuals whose loved ones reside in nursing homes should be aware of the potential for violent assaults and should keep their eyes open and not be afraid to ask hard questions of the management and staff.

This website is not intended to constitute legal advice or the provision of legal services. By posting and/or maintaining the website and its contents, Lucas Law does not intend to solicit business from clients located in states or jurisdictions outside of Illinois wherein Lucas Law or its individual attorney(s) are not licensed or authorized to practice law.

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