MORE than half of nursing home staff admit having witnessed neglect of elderly residents and one in four has watched as the vulnerable people were psychologically abused.
One in eight of staff surveyed in private and public nursing homes say they have observed physical abuse.
The stark findings are revealed in a report from the National Centre for the Protection of Older People at UCD after a survey of 1,300 nurses and healthcare assistants from 64 nursing homes.
It also shows that despite inspectors making announced and unannounced visits to nursing homes, they are not picking up many cases of poor treatment.
Three percent of staff confessed they themselves were the perpetrators of some form of physical abuse and 8pc had engaged in psychological abuse.
The report revealed:
• The most frequently observed forms of physical abuse were restraining a resident beyond what was needed and pushing, grabbing, shoving or pinching them.
• Psychological abuse, including shouting at a resident in anger, insulting or swearing and isolating them.
• A minority said they had seen another staff member taking valuables or property from a resident, while 0.7pc reported having stolen from a resident.
• A small number saw inappropriate sexual behaviour by a staff member with a resident, while 0.2pc admitted they were guilty of this themselves.
The report found that some factors were seen as linked to the inappropriate behaviour, including low levels of job satisfaction and staff suffering emotional exhaustion.
Lead author Dr Jonathan Drennan of the UCD School of Nursing, Midwifery and Health Systems, said: "When compared with international research into staff-resident interactions and conflicts, this study found the extent of staff-reported abuse in residential care settings in Ireland was lower than that reported in other countries.
"In addition, a number of initiatives and safeguards have been put in place by the HSE and HIQA to protect older people receiving care in the residential sector.
"However... there is a need to intensify efforts to protect older people receiving care.
"These include: giving older people a voice in their care, educating staff and relatives about abuse and providing supports for staff."
Frank Murphy, chair of the national elder abuse committee in the HSE which funded the report, urged older people who are being abused to contact their local GP or public health nurse.