Modern nursing homes advertise themselves as communities for seniors who are looking for an enriching and active lifestyle in their golden years. Luxury communities with comprehensive services are popping up in every state. These communities are often self-sufficient, offering seniors a huge selection of lifestyle amenities, entertainment venues, and eateries. Unfortunately, seniors who don’t fit the active, fit senior mold often have difficulty being admitted to resort-style communities like these.
It is common for seniors to have mental health issues due to age, such as dementia or Alzheimer’s, that require them to enter a senior nursing care facility. In fact, just over 50% of seniors who enter nursing homes in 2013 and 2014 have dementia or some form of dementia. However, many seniors have other mental health conditions that society sees as more problematic. The same high-quality senior communities that welcome seniors with age-related mental problems often avoid those with depression, anxiety, personality disorders, bipolar illness or schizophrenia. Why is this?
Questions Of Care Or Finances
The bottom line of most nursing homes is their potential profit. Yes, they care about your loved one, and the staff really do want to help your senior live a happy life. However, the stigma attached with some mental disorders can leave seniors feeling shunned. The aggression, depression, and agitation associated with severe mental illness (SMI) makes it harder for diagnosed seniors to find proper placement in resort-style communities or assisted-living facilities, since the caretakers who work here are often untrained in how to care for those who have more serious medical needs and won’t stay working for a community where the seniors become difficult or stressful to care for.
Researchers from Rutgers University recently discovered that between 2012-2014, seniors who were diagnosed with SMI were less likely to obtain admittance to five-star nursing homes. In fact, the study found that those with behavioral health problems were up to 28% more likely to be sent to a one-star nursing home (as ranked by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services) than those who had no mental problems.
There is definitely a gap in care between those with mental disorders and those whose physical condition alone necessitates admittance to a nursing home. Whether it is fear on the part of the nurse or caretaker or ignorance of the condition, seniors who have mental health issues are often pushed to the side, put last on the list to interact with and sometimes ignored completely when opportunities for social interaction arise.
There are many ways to improve the living condition of seniors who have a mental illness. Some of them include:
- Better training to teach caretakers and nurses about the different types of mental illness out there, to reduce the stigma attached to various disorders.
- Movement of some seniors to home care with 24-hour attendants, where they can receive the one-on-one attention they need in a comfortable setting.
- More staff to deal with those patients who are typically left out of social situations.
Sadly, there are no laws that require high-quality nursing homes to accept patients who have severe mental illnesses, which is why they end up in the care of nursing homes that are low-quality in the first place. If your loved one needs the full-time medical care available in nursing homes but you don’t want to take a chance with just “any nursing home,” check out the CMS nursing home ratings page to find the right place for your senior loved one.