Cliques and Bullying in Senior Care Communities

A clique is a small group of people, with common interests, who exclude others from joining the group. Cliques can lead to social bullying and have always been a part of our culture. From kindergarten through high school, to the work place, or a neighborhood group, you may have been excluded from a clique. Furthermore, cliques and the subsequent bullying they sometimes create don’t end once you reach your senior years.

According to a 2014 study from Weill Cornell Medical College and Cornell University, inappropriate, disruptive, or hostile behavior between nursing home residents is a sizable and growing problem. The study found that nearly one in five nursing home residents were part of at least one negative and aggressive encounter with one or more fellow residents in the previous four weeks. These included acts of verbal or physical abuse, inappropriate sexual behavior, or invasion of privacy.

At independent living homes or assisted living facilities, this mistreatment can take on many different forms. Some examples include not allowing a new resident to sit at a particular table in the dining room or ignoring a senior at a social event or bus outing. Calling somebody a name, hurling an insult, making mocking gestures, gossiping, eye rolling, or spreading rumors are all forms of bullying. Being bullied or excluded by a group, especially among seniors, can cause increased isolation, depression, and anxiety.

Coping Strategies

In senior living communities, the administrative staff, have put in place certain written rules and regulations. They want everyone to have a positive, happy, and respectful experience. Most facilities give each resident a handbook or code of conduct which clearly outlines expectations of both the staff and residents. Rules are often made to preempt situations which can trigger negative behavior. For example, having a policy of no assigned seating at meals or rotating seating every month can help avoid cliques at meal time. In addition, many facilities will ask a current resident to help a newcomer adjust to the community by introducing them to others.

Like any stage of life, dealing with cliques can be a complex problem. If you (or a parent or grandparent) are the victim of social bullying in a senior care facility, try the following:

  • Keep your distance. By avoiding a clique and ignoring their behavior, you remove the group’s power. Avoid engaging with them but do not cower if you come in contact. Be polite and always maintain eye contact. Speak assertively and with confidence.
  • Make new friends. Reach out to a new resident or someone who already lives in the complex. As you increase your own social connections you will be less affected by a clique. A great way to break the ice is to ask someone a few questions such as: How long have you lived here? Where did you grow up? What is your favorite hobby? Do you have children/grandchildren?
  • Seek assistance. If you have an ongoing issue with another resident or group of people, talk to the administrative staff. They are trained to handle these matters and can help resolve your problem by directly speaking with an individual or group. Aggressive or hostile behavior may be a sign of dementia or a side effect of a medication. Staff is knowledgeable on how to determine this and the best course of action to take. In the final analysis, remember everyone has the right to be treated with respect and dignity.






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