“That Myrtle woman…she’s sitting in my chair! That’s where I sit for lunch. Get up you stupid woman. Get out of my chair!!”
Many older adults who move into long term care communities are moving from a home where they either lived alone or with a spouse. Suddenly, they are put into a situation (often not by their choosing) where they have to learn to live with people from varied backgrounds and cultures, and share communal spaces.
Resident-to-resident aggression (RRA) is the term used to describe the verbally, physically and sexually aggressive behaviors that occur between residents in long term care communities. It often takes place in dining rooms and other common areas where residents gather. Triggers for the aggression vary, but a qualitative study from 2008 (see link to full study below) found that RRA happens most commonly in the afternoons. This may be due to staff fatigue, shift change disruption, and resident fatigue and/or boredom. The study also noted that loneliness and a feeling of abandonment were other triggers for RRA, along with trying to gain control in a situation where residents feel they have lost it.
One effective way to decrease resident-to-resident aggression is to keep residents active and engaged. If you don’t have many people attending the daily exercise class, try to build in physical activity during more popular events, like BINGO. Have residents dance between games, walk to the front of the room to get their prizes, and stand or march when someone wins. While residents wait for meals, turn on some music and dance, or have residents go to the hallway handrails and do sit-to-stands to music after they eat. Consider giving a residents a job to do each day, such as helping to set the tables or wipe them down after meals.
In long term care communities, just as in other group settings, it is necessary to balance the rights of individual residents with those of the larger community. Remind residents that living in a community requires tolerance and a willingness to support one another. One of our research interventionists encouraged the recreation staff to work with the residents to develop group expectations and rules that all will follow during activities, thereby creating a friendly atmosphere and safe space where residents are expected to behave cordially. After all, we want residents to come to exercise and other activities each day feeling welcomed and relaxed!
Click on the link below to read the qualitative study referenced above on resident-to-resident aggression:
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2755096/Have a great week!