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Illinois Nursing Home May Be Unprepared to Handle Young Mentally Ill Residents

Each month the Consumer Voice and National Long-Term Care Ombudsman Resource Center produce a monthly newsletter dealing with many nursing home issues. The publication is useful for all those interesting in keeping up with the important information about Illinois nursing home law, policy, and care.

For example, this February issue included an article discussing a new challenge facing many nursing homes-the care of young mentally disabled residents. The stereotype of most long-care care facilities is that they are filled with elderly residents who move-in when they need close assistance that they cannot receive while living in their own home. To be sure, most nursing homes continue to work with a majority of elderly residents. However, facilities are now also often filled with younger residents possessing a variety of different needs.

Of the over 1.4 million Americans in nursing homes nationwide, nine percent are younger individuals with mental illnesses. In 2002, those residents accounted for only six percent of the total, indicating a 40% increase in the number of younger residents throughout the nursing home system. Some specific parts of the country have witnessed even larger population shifts, with younger residents accounting for up to 16% of residents in a few places.

It is unclear what effect the shifting demographic will have on the care provided at many of these facilities. One report explained that many nursing homes may be unprepared to handle the changes, explaining that “a national trend toward placing younger, physically able people with mental illness in nursing homes…poses a risk to older, frailer residents.”

One problem is that many workers at nursing homes are trained to deal with elderly residents but have little knowledge of working with younger individuals in need of specialized assistance. Many care workers are also untrained in handling residents with substance abuse and mental health problems, which is a growing trend among the new residents.

Our Chicago nursing home lawyers at Levin & Perconti believe that all nursing facilities are responsible for making the changes needed to accommodate the care of all new residents. No matter what, the nursing home must ensure that their residents are safe, healthy, and free of unnecessary risks. Failure to ensure these steps may be grounds for a nursing home lawsuit.

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