Nursing Home Abuse and Mental Illness

NAMI_logoWhat do you know about mental health and nursing home neglect?

According to an article in Psychology Today, mental illness has become “the biggest economic burden of any health issue in the world, costing $2.5 trillion in 2010” alone. By 2030, that cost is expected to nearly triple to $6 trillion. However, despite the prevalence and costliness of mental illness—approximately 450 million people across the world currently suffer from some form of mental illness—the article emphasizes that mental health conditions continue to carry a stigma that prevents us as a society from talking about them openly and honestly. Unsurprisingly, the continued stigma of mental health or mental illness also makes its way into nursing homes, where patients who suffer from a mental health condition often becomes victims of nursing home abuse or neglect.

What can we do to prevent elder neglect among mental health patients?

Understanding Older Adults and Mental Health Conditions

Many older adults who suffer from mental health conditions are treated improperly by nursing home staff members, and those patients can become victims of nursing home abuse or neglect. According to a fact sheet from the World Health Organization (WHO), around 20% of adults aged 60 and older currently suffer from a mental or neurological disorder. For family members who currently are considering nursing facilities for a loved one with dementia, you might have heard such a statistic before. As the WHO fact sheet clarifies, dementia—of which Alzheimer’s disease is one type—is one of the neuropsychiatric disorders from which seniors often suffer. Other common forms of mental and neurological disorders among the elderly include depression and substance-abuse problems.

Yet dementia is not the only disease affecting nursing home patients. According to an article housed in the U.S. National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health (NIH), about 500,000 people who suffer from mental illnesses other than dementia currently reside in nursing home across the country. Despite these high numbers, however, the article contends that skilled nursing facilities may not be “equipped to serve the unique needs of residents with chronic mental illnesses,” and injuries from nursing home neglect can result.

In other words, because nursing home staff members may not have the proper tools, knowledge, or training to work with patients who have mental illnesses, those patients may become victims of nursing home neglect. In the article, the researchers explain that some states have higher rates of nursing home admissions for patients with mental illness than others. How does San Diego, CA rate? California had the second-highest rate of admission for nursing home patients with mental illness, with 3.7% of all admissions.

Preventing Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect Among Mental Health Patients

What can we do to prevent nursing home neglect or abuse among mental health patients? According to the WHO fact sheet, one of the key ways to prevent neglect or abuse is to properly train staff members and professionals in the care of those who suffer from mental illnesses. Not only should nurses and staff members at facilities receive specialized training for the needs of geriatric patients, but they should also understand how to properly interact with and treat an elderly patient who suffers from a mental illness.

In addition, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) emphasizes the continuing need for awareness. If we make more people and communities aware of the high rates of mental illness among nursing home patients, we may persuade facilities to require specialized training for staff members.

If your elderly loved one suffers from a mental illness and you have concerns about a nursing home, it is important to speak with a San Diego nursing home neglect attorney as soon as possible. Contact the Walton Law Firm today to discuss your case.

See Related Blog Posts:

Elder Abuse Risks for Dementia Patients

Chemical Restraints and Nursing Home Abuse