A 71-year-old man from a Kennedy Town nursing home died early yesterday after a fellow residentstruck him with a walking stick.
The victim suffered multiple head injuries. The attacker, 86, who occupies the next bed, has a history of psychological and mental illness.
The incident prompted a call to tackle staff shortages at such facilities.
"If the man cried out the first time he was hit, there should have been someone around to intervene immediately," said Selwyn Yu, deputy executive director of Against Elderly Abuse. "The problem is, there were probably not enough staff around."
Police received a call from staff at the Sun Man Fook Aged Home, a licensed private care home in Davis Street, saying an elderly man was being attacked.
Officers found the man unconscious in his bed at 2.45am. He was certified dead soon after at Queen Mary Hospital.
The man was beaten with a metal walking stick as he slept, said chief inspector Wong Tai-tak, of the Western district crime unit.
The 86-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of murder and taken to the hospital for a check-up.
Private care homes have drawn public scrutiny in the light of medical blunders, staff shortages and employment of unskilled staff.
For example, 118 mistakes in the dispensing of drugs were reported from 2009 to the end of last year, with 70 per cent involving errors in dosage, labelling and distribution to the wrong people.
Some of these errors are believed to have arisen from workers not being able to read the English labels and instructions.
Six homes were prosecuted over the mistakes, the Social and Welfare Department said.
Police figures show only two of 19 people arrested for murder and manslaughter in 2011 were over 62.