Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Older Adult Senior Bullying: No Home Sweet Home (Research, Solutions)

By Frances Shani Parker

When you think of the words “home sweet home,” what kind of thoughts do you envision? Do you smile and recall experiences you associate with sweetness such as love, support, and peace? Are you mindful of the physical, mental, spiritual, and social benefits you receive that improve your quality of life and health in a caring environment? Unfortunately, if you are an older adult living in a senior community and experiencing peer bullying, the sweetness of home may be missing. In addition, your likelihood of social isolation, depression, disease risk factors, and decreased mortality are threatened.

An older adult senior bullying research study was done to identify the nature, prevalence, and consequences of peer bullying for tenants of two low-income senior apartment communities. In collaboration with the local Older Adult Abuse Task Force, a screening survey on bullying was distributed to all tenants. Results of the surveys indicated that 39% of tenants had witnessed peer bullying and 29% had been subjected to bullying by peers. “The most common forms of peer bullying were deliberate social exclusion and hurtful comments. The majority of respondents indicated that bullying was a problem for seniors and that bullies hurt other people. Outcomes of bullying included feelings of dejection and difficulties conducting everyday activities.”

Currently, one out of five seniors is bullied by peers. This is worse than the one out of seven rate for young people. Due to underreporting of incidents, the numbers of bullying confrontations are often much higher than suspected. That's why only addressing sporadic incidents without the context of a larger anti-bullying plan frequently fails. While the above research results indicate the most common forms of bullying, there have been many other more serious cases that have included legal action, physical violence, and suicides.

Bullying occurs within all socioeconomic groups and anywhere in a senior facility. A common bullying violation is seats being saved for latecomers while people who have already arrived are denied seating. This is in violation of the first come, first served order of seating and happens often in dining areas and recreational spaces such as movie theaters. Sometimes seniors are selfish and very rude to peers who are different in some way such as newness, appearance, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, economic status, or a disability. Unfortunately, too many victims suffer in silence at their own detriment by avoiding perpetrators and not reporting bullying incidents to administrators, especially when previous reporting has not helped on a large scale. Concerned about personal negative repercussions, bystanders often do little or nothing to support victims. Fear runs deeply, but reports from victims and witnesses are greatly needed to solve bullying problems.

It is imperative that administrators of senior facilities implement ongoing solutions to bullying issues. Some are in denial about the magnitude of the problems and resist giving bullying concerns their full attention. Some are aware of problems, but don't want others, especially visitors or potential customers, to know bullying problems exist at their locations. The Internet, senior organizations (such as AARP), publications, and other resources are available to provide a great deal of helpful information. Bullying problems must be approached methodically with research, needs assessments, concrete plans, staff and resident training, implementation of solutions, and ongoing monitoring. A formal anti-bullying policy should be created and included in a handbook, so everyone shares a common goal and reference.

An anti-bullying culture must be established that reminds bullies they are not in charge and will be dealt with appropriately. A culture is not established through private conversations with a handful of violators or infrequent comments to large audiences. Victims need this culture for ongoing reassurances that they will be supported when they defend themselves against bullies. Residents need access to an ongoing dependable procedure for reporting bullying incidents that will be addressed in a timely manner. Posted anti-bullying signs (No Saving Seats, Bully-Free Zone) provide visibility of an anti-bullying culture. Ignoring bullying is done at the expense of residents' quality of life and impaired health. Confronting bullying head-on includes consistency in solution implementation and respect for everyone’s dignity and rights.

Note: You can view information below that includes more bullying research (long-term care staff perspectives), descriptions of older adult senior bullying incidents, legalities, comments, a video, and a link to AARP training and policies:

1) Bullying in Older Adult Senior Communities (Research, Video 2:49)

2) AARP - Bullying in Older - Adult Communities

Frances Shani Parker, Author
Becoming Dead Right: A Hospice Volunteer in Urban Nursing Homes is available in paperback and e-book editions in America and other countries at online and offline booksellers.
Hospice and Nursing Homes Blog

1 comment:

  1. These reports are shocking because we only think that we only face bulling in school or collages but after reading this reports i am shocked. Now it becomes more important to choose wisely the right nursing home for ower loved once.