Associated Press Reports Numbers of Mentallly Ill Patients in Nursing Homes on the Rise

The number of younger, mentally ill nursing home patients has been on the rise in recent years. This influx of potentially aggressive residents is creating some serious safety concerns, The Associated Press reported.

Mentally ill residents between the ages of 22 and 64 now comprise roughly 9% of the nursing home population nationwide, up from about 6% in 2002. That year, 89,000 nursing home residents were mentally ill. Now, the number is closer to 125,000, according to the AP report. A shortage of state funding for mental hospitals and a lack of hospital psychiatric beds have led to the placement of these patients in nursing homes.

One other explanation for the rise in the mentally ill nursing home population could be improved health well into old age, and advances in home healthcare, which allow many seniors to stay in their homes longer. Nursing homes with a low census might be forced to take these patients in order to stay open, the AP report suggests. The Associated Press conducted interviews and received exclusive statistics from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services for its report. For more, read the story.

A nursing home or assisted living facility is responsible for identifying patients with a history of disruptive or inappropriate conduct or who exhibit other behaviors that make them more likely to be involved in an altercation. In that regard, the nursing home or assisted living facility must identify the factors (e.g. illness, environment, etc.) that increase the risks for individual patients of an altercation or assault. The care plan team of the nursing home or assisted living facility should review the risk assessment in the presence of the patient and the patient’s family in order to identify interventions that would prevent altercations.

The nursing home or assisted living facility can intervene helpfully by providing sufficient staff to supervise its patients, providing safe supervised areas for unrestricted movement, eliminating or reducing underlying causes of distressed behavior (e.g. boredom and pain), monitoring environmental influences (e.g. temperature, lighting, and noise levels), evaluating staffing assignments to ensure staff members are consistently responsible for the same patients (so changes in a patient’s condition and behavior can be quickly identified), and training staff consistently about how to approach a patient who is agitated, combative, verbally or physically aggressive, or anxious.


Robert W. Carter, Jr. is a Virginia attorney whose law practice is dedicated to protecting the rights of the victims of nursing home and assisted living neglect and abuse in Richmond, Roanoke, Norfolk, Lynchburg, Danville, Charlottesville, and across Virginia.