Senior citizens and mental illness has always been a hot button issue. Many feel that assisted living facilities are being overburdened with the task of caring for large numbers of mentally ill patients. What is often unsaid, however, is the benefits that those with mental illnesses receive from moving into one of these facilities.
One of the greatest difficulties that those with mental illnesses face is lack of proper diagnosis or adequate health care when they are correctly diagnosed. Once they move into a facility, however, they are monitored closely and have greater and more frequent access to mental health care professionals. Some facilities even have a psychiatrist of psychologist on staff, though most have a close relationship with other agencies and doctors.
One of the best things about nursing homes for those with mental illnesses is that the staff is trained to be able to manage their care. While a bipolar senior may be difficult for the family to handle at home and may not, in fact, be able to live successfully on their own due to their symptoms, an assisted living facility has doctors and nurses on site that can handle any emergencies that may arise.
There is almost no question that seniors with mental illnesses receive better access to treatment and medication. These facilities are also usually well acquainted with other agencies and residents may have better access to day programs or group therapies that they may not have even been aware of before becoming a resident.
Some facilities even specialize in certain types of mental illness or impairment. There are homes popping up all across the country that offer specific treatment for residents with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. Some facilities are even opening their doors to younger folks with mental disabilities allowing them to get the care they need as well.
This can also have a bad side effect for residents and facilities. Some disabilities, such as schizophrenia, are often too severe for some assisted living facilities to handle. These residents, though no fault of their own, may put themselves, employees or even other residents in harm’s way.
If you or your loved one have been diagnosed with a mental illness or are exhibiting symptoms before moving into an assisted living facility, there are a few questions you should ask first. Are there medical staff onsite that are qualified to handle specific symptoms? What happens if the symptoms become too severe? Will there be an option to move to a more specialized facility or will you or your loved one simply be asked to move? What other programs are available as far as group therapies or day care?