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Increase of mentally ill in nursing homes

Published on October 4th, 2009

Here is an interesting article from the Chicago Tribune stating that mentally ill patients now constitute more than 15% of Illinois’ total nursing population (92,225) and the number of residents convicted of serious felonies has increased to 3,000, including 82 convicted murderers, 179 sex offenders and 185 armed robbers.  These are troubling statistics and may explain the increases in resident to resident assaults, rapes, and molestation.  Hopefully, the nursing home industry will decide to increase staffing to supervise residents with a history of violence or criminal behavior.
The article mentions several instances where the mentally ill and the nursing homes’ lack of supervision caused injuries and death to residents.

More than any other state, Illinois relies heavily on nursing homes to house mentally ill patients, including those who have committed crimes. But the Tribune investigation found that the industry has failed to adequately manage the resulting influx of younger residents who shuttle into nursing facilities from jail cells, shelters and psychiatric wards.  The state’s background checks on new residents are riddled with errors and omissions that understate their criminal records, and homes with the most felons are among those with the lowest nursing staff levels.  The facilities had a financial motive for accepting them, suggested Richard Dees, chief of the state public health department’s Bureau of Long-term Care. When "the number of seniors going into nursing homes began to decline, there were facilities with empty beds," Dees said.

Meanwhile, state authorities don’t track assaults and other crimes in nursing homes, making it difficult to uncover patterns and address the problems caused by unstable individuals.  Police reports show that since March 2008, police reported 511 cases of assault or battery, 27 cases of criminal sexual assault and 24 narcotics violations in city nursing homes.  The Tribune documented instances in which nursing homes failed to report attacks to the state health department as required by law. At the same time, state inspectors do not compile incident reports in a central location. And because the health department’s computerized case-tracking software is antiquated and ineffective, department officials have difficulty assembling and analyzing the facility reports to uncover patterns of attacks at unsafe homes, the Tribune found.

Several national studies question whether they receive meaningful psychiatric care in nursing facilities. A pending class-action lawsuit, brought by the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law and the American Civil Liberties Union, describes some Illinois homes as filthy, frightening holding pens where "groggy" residents watch TV in crowded, noisy common areas or are directed over loudspeakers to wait for medication and meals in long lines.

 

 

 

 

Joe Pioletti
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