Sexual Aggression May Be Common in Nursing Homes

By McNamara, Damian | Clinical Psychiatry News, July 2010 | Go to article overview

Sexual Aggression May Be Common in Nursing Homes


McNamara, Damian, Clinical Psychiatry News


ORLANDO -- Sexually aggressive behavior might be common between nursing home residents, according to a focus group study.

Most sexual aggression against older adults occurs in long-term care facilities rather than in community settings, according to previous case series. "Very little direct research exists [regarding] what we've begun to call RRSA or resident-to-resident sexual aggression," said Tony Rosen, who conducted the research within the division of geriatrics and gerontology of Cornell University, New York.

Fellow residents are the most common perpetrators of sexually aggressive behavior, not nursing home staff, as sometimes reported in the media, Mr. Rosen said at the annual meeting of the American Geriatrics Society.

Among 103 participants in 16 focus groups including nursing home employees and some residents, 38% of participants in 18% of the focus groups reported having witnessed sexually aggressive behavior.

Inappropriate touching was the most commonly reported behavior in the study, mentioned in 38% of focus groups by 7% of participants. Residents attempting to get into the bed of another (13% of groups and 18% of participants) and verbal sexual abuse (13% of groups and 5% of participants) were the next most frequent incidents reported.

A behavior cited in the focus groups that surprised the researchers was inappropriate caregiving, mentioned in 6% of groups and by 3% of participants. "Inappropriate caregiving is residents trying to give intimate nursing care to other residents, a phenomenon we did not expect," Mr. Rosen said.

The focus groups included 7 cognitively intact residents and 96 clinical and nonclinical employees from all three shifts at a single, large, not-for-profit long-term care facility. The descriptions of witnessed sexually aggressive behavior came from a larger focus group study evaluating overall resident-to-resident verbal and physical aggression.

"Prevention and management [of these behaviors] are more challenging due to legitimate and increasingly recognized need for sexual expression by nursing home residents," said Mr. …

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