Nursing homes are typically through of as being caring and comprehensive communities for the elderly and those who have considerable health issues but who do not wish to stay in a hospital. Yet throughout the United States, many nursing homes may be serving a different purpose: that of providing shelter and basic, yet often inadequate, care for those experiencing mental health difficulties.
Though federal law prevents nursing homes from playing host to people with mental health concerns unless they are concurrently diagnosed with a major medical health issue, a recent series of visits to state nursing homes conducted by an investigation team in Illinois has highlighted considerable ambiguity in treatment of the law. Team members noted meeting with several nursing home residents whose non-mental-health concerns ranged from high blood pressure to an already-healed broken wrist.
The investigation has produced the suggestion that a considerable percentage of people living in nursing homes are there only due to their mental health concerns, a troubling fact in light of the services offered at many such homes, which tend not to focus on delivering mental health care. Investigators reported seeing residents packed by the threes and fours to a single room, playing board games or wandering halls without participating in much, if any, therapy.
The report is likely to call greater attention to nationally relevant problems within nursing homes and community mental health programs that fail to provide a more viable alternative for residents. Through creating a more in-depth understanding of how those with mental health concerns differ from clients with solely medical needs, community leaders may be able to help people living in nursing homes receive more appropriate care.
© Copyright 2009 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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