Few Nursing Home Facilities Offer Sound Psychiatric Care, Group Contends
The American Association for Geriatric Psychiatry is beginning a campaign to address the "largely forgotten" concern that few nursing homes provider "proper" psychiatric care to seniors, the AP/Nando Times reports. Nationally, 80% of 1.6 million nursing home residents have a mental illness, but these homes, orginally established to treat chronic physical ailments and not "the explosion of Alzheimer's," depression and other brain disorders, are typically staffed with primary care physicians "with little mental health training" who "often don't know about new treatments that help [psychiatric] patients without sedating them into zombies." Special psychiatric consulations for patients may take weeks to set up, and due to nursing staff shortages, training staff to care for these patients "isn't common." According to a survey of 900 nursing homes directors in six states, facilities have "a big need for mental health improvement," with 50% calling the frequency of their homes' psychiatric consultations "inadequate" and 25% of rural facility directors saying that psychiatrists are never called to their homes. AAGP is writing "the first nursing-home mental health guidelines" and looking to help homes find ways to pay for better care. After the guidelines are written, the association will organize a consumer campaign to instruct families on how to select care for their relatives. Dr. William Reichman, AAGP's president, said, "Most people when they visit a nursing home don't think to ask, 'If my mother gets agitated or combative, to what extent are you prepared to manage that?' They should. It's key" (Neergaard, AP/Nando Times, 11/13).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.