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Mental Health in Nursing Homes

Long term care facilities are required by law to do what they can to promote physical, mental, and social wellbeing among nursing home residents. Many nursing homes (though certainly not all) only have the time, money, and resources to promote physical health. But promoting mental health in nursing homes is just as important as promoting physical health, if not more so. Physical health and mental health directly influence each other. If one suffers, the other one does too.

Mental health disorders among nursing home residents can be caused by a variety of things, such as general old age, grief, isolation, and even nursing home abuse and neglect.

Nursing home residents with serious mental illness diagnoses have an incredibly high risk of malnutrition, dehydration, bedsores, chronic pain, mobility problems, and even early death. Despite the countless risks, geriatric psychiatry services in nursing homes are put on the back burner, mostly due to understaffing and poor training. Poor mental health in nursing homes may be a partial explanation as to why 53% of residents die within 6 months of checking into their facility.

If your elderly loved one is suffering from mental health problems due to nursing home abuse and neglect, you may have grounds to take legal action. Or, if your elderly loved one has a serious mental illness and they’re not receiving the mental health care they desperately need, you could also pursue legal action. The legal team at Curcio Law Offices has decades of combined experience in pursuing justice and financial compensation for older adults and their families. Call us today at 312-321-1111 to schedule a free consultation.

mental health in nursing homes

How Many Nursing Home Residents Have Mental Disorders?

Many people think of nursing facilities as places where older adults go when their physical health starts to decline. While this is true, it’s important for people to realize that a large percentage of nursing home residents also suffer with major mental health problems. In fact, a 2010 study from the American Geriatrics Society claims that between 65% and 91% of nursing home residents suffer from some kind of mental disorder.

Common Types of Mental Health Conditions in Nursing Homes

Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease have always been some of the most common mental health disorders to afflict nursing home residents. But over the last few decades, more and more nursing home residents have exhibited symptoms of other psychotic disorders. Now, many nursing facilities report that a larger percentage of residents with a mental health condition (such as anxiety disorders and major depression) outweigh the percentage of residents with neurocognitive disorders like dementia.

This is because many mental health facilities closed and downsized in the 1960s and 1970s. A large percentage of the people who were receiving these round-the-clock psychiatric services were older adults. So they were all transferred into nursing homes. In fact, the number of older adults in psychiatric hospitals decreased by 40% while mentally ill nursing home residents increased by more than 100% during this time.

The same study linked above claims that of the 996,311 older adults admitted to U.S. nursing homes in 2005, 19% were afflicted with serious mental illnesses other than dementia, while only 12% were afflicted with dementia.

Common types of psychiatric disorders, other than dementia, that afflict nursing home residents include:

Depression and depressive symptoms are the most common mental health conditions among current nursing home residents. Studies estimate that between 6% to 26% of nursing home residents suffer from major depression while 11% to 50% of residents suffer from depressive symptoms.

mental health nursing homes

Common Causes of Mental Illness in Nursing Homes

The average nursing home resident can suffer from a chronic mental illness for a variety of reasons, including:

  • Moving from their home to a nursing home or moving from one nursing home to another
  • Having a chronic physical illness
  • Having chronic pain
  • Grieving the loss of family members and/or friends
  • Having a history of trauma
  • Lack of independence
  • Less control over lifestyle and daily routine
  • Isolation from other nursing home residents
  • Lack of visits from family members and/or friends
  • Loss of mobility due to health conditions/pain
  • Malnutrition
  • Medication errors
  • Financial difficulties due to nursing home expenses
  • Nursing home abuse and neglect

How Poor Mental Health in Nursing Homes Can Impact Overall Health

Physical health can dramatically impact mental health, and vice versa. Once older adults begin to physically or mentally decline, their entire well being tends to suffer.

Poor mental health in nursing homes can worsen pre-existing conditions such as heart conditions and gastrointestinal issues. Chronic stress from an unmanaged anxiety disorder creates stress on every major bodily system, particularly the immune system. Elderly adults already struggle with weakened immune systems due to old age and pre-existing health conditions. The extra strain from untreated mental health problems can lead to an increase of infections, antibiotic resistance, sepsis, and even death.

Additionally, nursing home residents who experience depressive symptoms will struggle to do basic self-care activities, like getting out of bed, eating, brushing their teeth, taking their medication, etc. Lack of self-care can lead to a whole host of health problems, like bed sores from lack of mobility, increased infections from malnutrition, dental decay due to poor oral hygiene, and the list goes on.

That is why it’s so crucial to prioritize older adult mental health in all skilled nursing facilities. Unfortunately, many U.S. nursing homes don’t have the time, money, or resources to provide mental health services to their residents.

Is Poor Mental Health in Nursing Homes a Sign of Abuse and Neglect?

Yes. As previously stated, the quality of care that older adults receive in their nursing homes dramatically impacts both physical and mental health. A nursing home resident with pre-existing mental health conditions can quickly deteriorate even further if they’re experiencing abuse and neglect in their facility. Similarly, nursing home residents with no prior history of serious mental illness can suddenly develop behavioral symptoms when they’re being abused or neglected in their facility.

long term care mental health

Lack of Mental Health Services Can Be a Form of Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect

Nursing home abuse can involve verbal abuse, emotional abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, and even financial abuse. Meanwhile, neglect often entails a lack of basic needs, like lack of food, lack of medications, lack of good personal hygiene, lack of necessary medical care, etc. It’s also important to remember that a lack of mental health treatment is also considered abuse and neglect, especially if the resident is clearly declining.

Ever since the 60s and 70s, when many psychiatric facilities shut down, nursing homes have struggled to provide mental health services for their residents with serious mental illnesses due to understaffing and lack of training. This led to frequent use of both physical and chemical restraints in order to subdue nursing home residents with serious mental illness, instead of providing behavioral health services in nursing homes.

In fact, studies suggest that up to 80% of residents with mental illness did not receive appropriate behavioral health care from a mental health professional. Given what we know now about the intimate connection between physical health, mental health, and mortality, a failure to provide mental health services is dangerous and unacceptable.

Can You Sue for Poor Mental Health in Nursing Homes?

Yes, you can sue nursing home staff members or the entire nursing home if your elderly loved one is suffering from mental illness as a result of abuse and neglect. You can also sue if your elderly loved one has a known, serious mental illness and they’re not receiving the mental health care that they desperately need. Countless studies show that poor mental health in nursing homes can lead to a variety of physical health issues, and even early death, if not treated properly.

Mentally ill nursing home residents and their family members deserve justice and financial compensation for any kind of abuse and neglect. Chicago’s top notch elder abuse lawyers at Curcio Law Offices can analyze the details of your elderly loved one’s situation and help you determine if you have a strong case.

Damages for Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect

A Chicago elder abuse lawyer can help you and your elderly loved one recover financial compensation for the following types of damages:

How Can Nursing Homes Improve Mental Health Among Nursing Home Residents?

Managing mental health is a critical part of having overall healthy and happy nursing home residents. Tragically, geriatric psychiatry services and enrichment activities are often put on the back burner in nursing homes, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic wiped out thousands of nursing home staff members. If your loved one’s current facility doesn’t do the following things to manage mental health disorders (and your loved one’s health is suffering as a result), please speak to our legal team.

  • Providing basic mental health care with a mental health professional and/or psychiatric medications.
  • Encouraging family members to visit their loved ones regularly.
  • Scheduling group activities and games with other nursing home residents.
  • Encouraging and/or scheduling daily physical activity (walking outside, going to the facility gym, etc.)
  • Encouraging mentally stimulating activities like doing puzzles, playing memory games, coloring in adult coloring books, doing word searches/crosswords, etc.
  • Making sure that residents eat meals together.
  • Making sure nursing home residents eat 3 healthy meals a day.
nursing home mental health

Call Chicago Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect Lawyers at Curcio Law Offices Today

If your elderly loved one is suffering from a serious mental illness due to abuse and neglect in their nursing home, you have grounds to contact Curcio Law Offices. We can listen to your loved one’s situation and help you determine the best course of action, whether that be reporting the nursing home, choosing a different nursing home, filing an elder abuse lawsuit, or all of the above. We want to ensure that nursing home residents in the Chicagoland area receive the best physical and mental health care possible. Call 312-321-1111 to schedule a free consultation with our legal team.