As older residents die from the pandemic and as more families choose to keep elderly relatives at home, some facilities are accepting younger patients, including some with drug addictions and mental illness. Some patients have schizophrenia, some have psychosis. This change in clientele can have a dramatic impact on the daily functioning of nursing homes, a change that administrators and staff may be unprepared to handle.
In an article written by Don Martin, Director, Urban School Counseling Graduate Program, Youngstown State University, the migration of psychiatric patients to these facilities began in the 1950s, then sped up in the 1980s, when state psychiatric hospitals began rapidly shutting down. Today, about 95% of these hospitals are closed and the ones still open hold collectively about 37,000 beds, nearly 90,000 short of what’s needed.
For nursing home administrators, this is just one more confounding problem they face. COVID-19 has been a devastating experience for them. The virus has ravaged their facilities and one administrator told me she lost nearly one-third of her residents to COVID. The good news is that at least the immediate future at many nursing homes is looking better however, finding housing solutions benefiting both psychiatric patients and an elderly population is a long-haul problem.
Stay the course, stay well, mask up, get vaccinated, and stay tuned!