Why Is Monitoring Mental Health in Nursing Homes Important?
According to a study published by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), between 65% and 90% of nursing home residents have a mental disorder, ranging from common mental health problems such as anxiety and depression to serious mental illnesses like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
This alarming statistic makes it important to monitor your loved one’s mental health — also called behavioral health. This is especially true because nursing home mental health care services are often insufficient or nonexistent.
Behavioral health interventions in long-term care facilities such as nursing homes and assisted living facilities has become a public health concern.
“Despite the high prevalence of mental illness other than dementia in nursing homes, nursing home staff are often ill-equipped to serve residents with mental illness.”
Medical Care Research and Review
Additionally, the symptoms of mental health conditions such as depression or anxiety may mirror the normal aging process. Mood changes and behaviors such as becoming less active and sleeping more are common in both situations.
Protecting your loved one’s emotional well-being is just as important as protecting their physical safety. No one should be forced to suffer in silence, especially in a nursing home where family members trust that loved ones are receiving high-quality health care.
What to Know About Mental Health in Nursing Homes
Because of the high number of residents facing issues with mental health in nursing homes, loved ones should become familiarized with this subject. It’s essential to know both who is at risk as well as the most common mental health conditions residents may face.
Who Is at Risk?
Research has shown that mental health conditions are more common in nursing home residents who are younger, female, and have higher education levels. Chronic conditions that cause pain also impact mental health in nursing homes.
Depression in Nursing Homes
There are different levels of depression based on severity — mild, moderate, and severe. Symptoms of depression include decreased energy, loss of interest, worsening mood, and difficulty feeling joy. Unfortunately, depression in nursing homes is a common occurrence.
“Depression is one of the most common psychiatric disorders among older adults, and depressed nursing home residents are at a particularly high risk of a decreased quality of life.”
Dementia and Geriatric Cognitive Disorders
Symptoms of depression in older people often go untreated in long-term care settings because they coexist with other health needs and may go unnoticed by nursing home staff members. This can be especially true for residents living with comorbidities such as Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia.
It is critical to monitor your loved one for symptoms of depression. Poor mental health in nursing homes is linked with poor functioning and can take a toll on residents’ physical health.
Anxiety in Nursing Homes
A study published by the International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry confirmed that anxiety disorders and symptoms of anxiety are common in older adults living in nursing homes.
Symptoms of anxiety in nursing homes include:
- Depressive symptoms
- Difficulty concentrating
- Fear of falling and becoming injured
- Muscle tension
- Sleep disturbances
Sadly, anxiety can go undiagnosed because mental health in elderly nursing home residents is often ignored. Without detection, it’s impossible to treat this common condition that causes so many to suffer unnecessarily.
If anxiety is not treated, it can seriously affect residents’ mental health in nursing homes. Untreated anxiety is linked with decreased life satisfaction and even a decline in physical health.
Causes of Poor Mental Health in Nursing Homes
Mental health in nursing homes is negatively impacted for many reasons. Some of the causes are common to older adults, but they are magnified by the isolation that comes with living alone in a care facility.
Common causes of issues with mental health in nursing homes include:
- Becoming disconnected from their community
- Chronic pain
- Decline in mental capacity
- Grieving the loss of loved ones
- Having to move out of home
- Lack of independence
- Less control over lifestyle (lack of physical activity, obesity, poor nutrition)
- Loss of physical functioning and mobility
- Medical conditions, such as heart disease
- Medication errors
- Social isolation and loneliness
- Worsened financial situation due to retirement
Tragically, abuse and neglect is another major contributor to serious issues with mental health in nursing homes.
“Elder abuse can lead not only to physical injuries but also to serious, sometimes long-lasting psychological consequences, including depression and anxiety.”
World Health Organization (WHO)
If you believe your loved one’s declining mental health is the result of nursing home abuse or neglect, please do not wait to get them help. Connect with a nursing home abuse law firm now.
Effects of Poor Nursing Home Mental Health
Although it is easily overlooked, mental health in nursing homes must be taken very seriously. Research shows that mental health impacts physical health and vice versa. This can create a vicious cycle for already frail older adults.
As an example, a nursing home resident with heart disease may become depressed over their condition. In turn, untreated depression can negatively affect the prognosis of their heart condition.
Additionally, issues with mental health in elderly nursing home residents have been linked to violence. Therefore, untreated nursing home mental health issues can create an unsafe environment for resident-to-resident aggression to happen, including physical elder abuse.
Improving Mental Health in Elderly Nursing Home Residents
Although mental health in nursing homes can be a challenging issue to address, studies suggest that it is possible to make improvements. Allowing nursing home residents to maintain as much independence as possible is the best place to begin.
Additional ways that residents can improve mental health in nursing homes include:
- Participating in group activities
- Playing memory games and puzzles
- Staying physically active
- Visiting with friends and family
You may also be able to arrange a behavioral telehealth appointment for yourself or a loved one living in a nursing home. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) allows psychologists to use video platforms such as Zoom, Skype, and FaceTime to provide mental health services in nursing homes.
What to Do When Nursing Home Mental Health Issues Arise
Monitoring the mental health of elderly nursing home residents is the most important step you can take to protect your loved one. Know the common risk factors and watch for changes in your loved one’s emotional health.
You should also be especially vigilant in looking for warning signs of nursing home abuse or neglect.
Additional steps you can take to improve loved ones’ mental health in nursing homes include:
- Arranging telehealth visits with a psychologist or therapist
- Considering medications for anxiety or depression
- Consulting with the nursing home’s social worker
- Looking into existing nursing home mental health services
- Talking with your loved one frequently about their mood
If you believe the decline in your loved one’s mental health could be caused by nursing home abuse or neglect, you may wish to consult with an experienced nursing home abuse lawyer.
Nursing Home Abuse Lawyers
While many lawyers say they handle all types of personal injury claims, it is very important to remember that some lawyers focus their careers on handling only nursing home abuse cases. Hiring a skilled nursing home abuse lawyer may improve your chances of getting justice for your loved one.
Nursing home abuse cases can be difficult to prove, which makes working with an experienced nursing home abuse lawyer especially important. Nursing Home Abuse Center can connect you with our national network of skilled nursing home law firms.
If you want to discuss issues with nursing home mental health that may be caused by abuse or neglect, connect with our advocates now. Fill out a case review form to get started with your confidential, free consultation.