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Nursing homes Become Dumping Grounds for mentally ill, Increase Risk of Elder Abuse

The Associated Press has a shocking report about the manner in which spare beds at nursing homes around the country are being filled by mentally ill patients, thus exposing the facility’s elderly patients to assaults and abuse.

Across the country, deplorable conditions at mental health institutions have been responsible for the closure of these facilities. Besides, the mentally ill over the past few decades, have benefited from better treatment and more effective drugs which have also played a part in the closure of several of these facilities. This has meant that there are insufficient beds for the mentally ill, and many of them have been shifted to nursing homes instead. In these elder care facilities, these mentally ill patients who suffer from schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and other serious mental conditions are made to share rooms with weak and sick elderly residents, most of who are above 65 years of age. What makes the problem worse is that the mentally ill patients are much younger, and therefore stronger and healthier than their geriatric roommates. This has given rise to a potentially dangerous situation in which the elderly are at risk of violent assaults and even sexual abuse at the hands of the mentally ill.

There is no official data on how many of such assaults on the elderly by their mentally ill roommates have taken place, but numerous cases have been reported. In one instance, in 2003 a mentally ill woman at a nursing home in Hartford, Connecticut, set fire to the nursing home she was living at. Sixteen residents were killed n the inferno. The woman was judged incompetent to stand trial and was committed to a mental institution. There have been other instances of assault, including beatings and rapes of elderly residents.

According to the report, in 2008 there were approximately 125,000 mentally ill patients living in nursing homes. In Georgia alone, 3300 mentally ill patients are residents at nursing homes meant for the elderly. Nursing home staff members often lack the training to deal with the special mental health challenges posed by these patients. Handling the severe paranoia, delusions, depression, aggression and hallucination that mentally ill patients suffer is impossible in the absence of staff that is trained to deal with such patients.

Georgia Nursing Home Abuse Lawyers

Georgia already has the distinction of being one of the worst states for nursing care with the state ranking number 2, based on the lowest number of top rated nursing homes. Just above 6% of nursing homes in Georgia have a five star rating, and abusive and neglectful conditions at some of the state’s homes have kept Georgia nursing home abuse lawyers very busy through the years with elder abuse lawsuits. Adding to the existing problems of under funding and staff shortages is the fact that there are 3300 mentally ill patients living with geriatric residents, creating the perfect recipe for assault and abuse.