Bullying in senior housing strikes chord
1/9/2015 8:39:09 AM

By Paul Votto, National Director of Housing Programs

I'm a bit embarrassed to say that the idea of bullying in senior housing as an issue didn’t even occur to me until the fall of 2013. Embarrassed, because I've directly managed, overseen, built, and taught others about senior housing since the early 1980s. During that time I've addressed plenty of issues in senior housing, some of which I now know involved bullying. But it was not until teaching NCHM's new Certified Manager of Senior Housing program with a group from the Good Samaritan Society in Sioux Falls, South Dakota that I came to recognize that bullying in senior communities was not only a reality, it might very well be the most seriously overlooked problem our industry faces.

Well, as it turns out, the managers in Sioux Falls and I weren’t the only ones who thought bullying was worth discussing. In 2014, NCHM offered a webinar on the subject and, quite to our surprise, it sold out -- and sold out again -- and nearly sold out a third and a fourth time! The message for us was clear: bullying in senior housing is a problem that has flown under the radar for far too long.

As a result, NCHM has committed to do what it can to shed more light on the issue and help managers do a better job of addressing the problem. In addition to our plans to repeat the webinar in 2015 with new information we've gathered over the past year, we have reached out to academia to learn more from the few researchers who have written on the topic. In one case that has led to some preliminary discussions regarding the idea of NCHM sponsoring a formal survey to try and get a better handle on the prevalence and nature of the problem. We also intend to incorporate the subject into our Certified Manager of Senior Housing curriculum.

From the "cliques at the front door" who prey on certain residents as they enter and leave the building to the resident association taken over by leaders who use it to intimidate others, senior bullying takes many forms. Those who manage senior housing need to know how to recognize the behavior when they see it and they need to know what counter-measures work and what doesn’t. Often the best advice comes from those who are dealing with these issues everyday. Consequently, we encourage you to share your thoughts and experiences. Drop me an email (at pvotto@nchm.org) and let me know if you have seen incidences of bullying and, if so, how you have addressed it. As one participant in our webinar put it: "I felt so alone with this issue ... until today." With your help, we can shed a light on this problem and help others deal with it more effectively.

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