When you were bullied by other kids in school, your mom and dad may have stepped in. Perhaps they had a meeting with the principal, called the bully’s parents or maybe even had a talk with the little miscreant themselves. Now you have a parent in a nursing home or assisted living facility, and they’re being bullied by other residents — and they need your help.
You may find it hard to believe that older adults can behave this way, but it’s not so uncommon – particularly in shared senior spaces. Some studies have shown that about 20% of seniors are victims of bullying. That number may be low because many people don’t report it.
Senior bullying isn’t so different from childhood and teenage bullying. Just as in school, people in senior living facilities are together day after day. They’re often in common areas, like dining rooms and recreational rooms. It’s easy to end up fighting over equipment or resources, from the TV to a favorite piece of workout equipment.
But there’s a lot more to it than that. Bullying can include things like:
- Ostracizing people
- Starting rumors
- Verbal abuse
- Damaging or stealing property
- Physical (including sexual) abuse
Like child and teenage bullies, senior bullies often gravitate toward those who are the most vulnerable — physically, mentally and/or cognitively. Sadly, these are the people least likely to stand up for themselves, report the bullying or even realize that they’re being bullied. Even non-physical bullying can be upsetting enough to harm many seniors who are emotionally fragile or prone to anxiety and depression.
The management and staff at nursing homes and other senior care facilities have an obligation to prevent peer bullying in all forms. However, just as teachers don’t always step in and protect bullied kids, care professionals don’t always take action. Sometimes, they don’t know it’s occurring.
If a loved one is being bullied by other residents (or staff) in an assisted living facility or nursing home, talk to those in charge. Come prepared with details (who, when, where and so forth). If they don’t take the appropriate action to put an end to it, you may need to find a place where your loved one can live a safe and pleasant life. If they’ve already suffered harm, find out what legal options you have.