Elderly men and woman living in Australian nursing homes are being killed or fatally injured by their fellow residents, The Age reports.
A string of 28 deaths has been uncovered by Melbourne researchers. The cases are not considered murders, but mostly tragedies where people with dementia have become confused and argued with each other, with fatal consequences.
“Some people were classifying these as homicides but we don’t believe there is intent behind this,” said Professor Joseph Ibrahim from the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine and Monash University.
“It’s typically two people with dementia getting involved in an argument or concerned about one invading another person’s space.
In the largest international study of its type examining coroners’ files, at least 15 elderly women and 13 elderly men were found to have died following incidents of “resident aggression” in Australian nursing homes between 2000 and 2013.
With the instigators of the aggression mostly suffering from a mental disorder, the issue has proven to be a fraught one for police and the legal sector.
Only two of the 28 deaths resulted in criminal charges and in both incidents the accused died before the case got to court.
Almost 90 per cent of the residents who died, or were the instigators of the assault, had dementia.
Researchers warned there are likely to be many serious but non-fatal assaults between residents of nursing homes that go unreported, with other research suggesting that at least 20 per cent of residents exhibit aggressive behaviour.
Aged Care Minister Ken Wyatt said the Turnbull government was considering a recommendation to enact a serious incident response scheme for aged care.