I had been informed by a colleague that another senior had died from an attack by a fellow senior resident earlier this week, but was only able to read a full article in the National Post yesterday. A tragedy in Toronto has illustrated a growing and ignored problem in the senior community. Two women, who were residents of a nursing home, were beaten by a fellow resident. One died and the other is in the hospital with serious injuries.
Last month, I was asked to be part of a team project to address this very issue. Three Canadian colleagues, who work in the field of Gerontology and are members of the LinkedIn group Gerontology Professionals of Canada, teamed up to write a response after watching a report by CTV, a W5 documentary called Crisis in Care that reported almost unbelievable statistics and incidents of resident to resident violence. In all cases, these incidents occurred in senior residences or long term care facilities and the attacker was a senior who was known to be aggressive and was diagnosed with either dementia or mental illness. The attacks occurred at night when there was little staff and no security on duty.
A website, Seeking Action for Safety in Long Term Care Facilities, was created as a place where concerned citizens and professionals could read the response that was sent to government officials, agencies,and organizations. They can also inform themselves about these incidents, share comments, obtain information on advocacy, and access contact information for pertinent government officials.
There might be cause for concern about other attacks as well. In this recent incident:
…the suspect was known for outbursts and had been moved to a more secure ward of the facility. It has been reported that the facility’s security staff do not work during the night, when the incident occurred, and that even the secure wards are only staffed by two nurses each. Facility administrators have declined to comment, but union representatives for the nurses claim that a report detailing Mr. Brook’s increasingly violent behavior was submitted in recent weeks.
How should this issue be addressed? Incidents like this will only worsen as the population continues to age, placing an even larger demand on an already overwhelmed system.
There are an estimated 10,000 violent incidents in Canada each year, the problem cannot be ignored. Improvements are needed, along with solutions by both public and private senior residences and LTC facilities. How many more seniors have to be attacked for this issue to be addressed?
Behavioral issues among the aging population cannot be ignored. Seniors have the right to live out their final years with dignity and safety.
Written by Victoria Brewster, MSW
SJS Staff Writer in Canada