Increase in Number of Younger and Middle Aged Mentally Ill Patients in US Nursing Homes is Leading to Violent Crimes Against Elderly Residents

According to the Associated Press, the number of mentally ill patients in US nursing homes increased by 41% between 2002 and 2008. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services says these approximately 125,000 long-term care residents make up 9% of the overall nursing home population.

There are a number of reasons for this. A number of state facilities have shut down and there aren’t enough hospital psychiatric beds. There is also more room in US nursing homes because a lot of older residents are healthier and more independent than those from past generations. As a result, there are less of them requiring long-term care.

Unfortunately, this increase of patients with mental illnesses in nursing homes has resulted in crimes being committed by the younger ones against older nursing home residents. The younger residents tend to be stronger than the older ones, and because they aren’t always aware of or can be responsible for their actions, they may hurt older residents that are too sick or frail to defend themselves. For example:

• An elderly patient, 77, died after his roommate, 72, beat him using the towel bar from the bathroom. His attacker did not go to trial for killing him because he was found incompetent.

• A 23-year-old woman was also found incompetent to go to trial after she was charged with igniting a fire at a nursing home that killed 16 patients.

• A 21-year-old mentally ill resident raped a 69-year-old woman. The nursing home reportedly failed to supervise him despite knowing about his violent history.

• A 77-year-old nursing home resident was in his bed when his much younger roommate, who was mentally ill, slammed a clock radio into his face. The elderly resident died from his injuries.

It is the responsibility of Maryland nursing homes to make sure that all of their residents are housed in a safe environment. This means making sure that older, sick residents are kept separate from younger, stronger patients with mental or behavioral challenges, as well as making sure that these patients with special needs get the care, attention, and supervision they require so that they don’t become a danger to themselves or others. Failure to exercise this duty of care can be grounds for nursing home neglect or wrongful death.

Housing Mentally Ill in Nursing Homes Sometimes Leads to Violence,, March 24, 2009
Nursing Homes Called ‘Dumping Grounds’ for Mentally Ill, MedPage, March 23, 2009
Related Web Resources:

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Caring for the Mentally Ill,

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