Violence in Nursing Homes—Protecting Elderly Residents from Criminals and the Mentally Ill

In yesterday’s post, our Maryland Nursing Home Injury Attorneys wrote about the difficulty of maintaining resident safety in nursing homes that take in mentally ill patients and violent criminals. Elderly nursing home residents who are often weak and unable to protect themselves from the violent actions of younger, mentally ill patients.

In the Chicago Tribune’s ongoing reporting on security and safety reform in nursing homes, today’s article recommends a serious overhaul of nursing home operations, to better protect elderly residents in nursing homes from the violence of mentally ill residents and convicted felons.

Nursing homes have become known as “dumping grounds” for young and middle aged individuals with mental illnesses, according to U.S. data and Associated Press interviews. The placement of mentally ill patients into nursing homes in this country has increased by 41% between the years of 2002 and 2008, as well as the incidents of nursing home crime and violence.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), released data earlier this year that nearly 125,000 individuals with mental illnesses like schizophrenia, depression, or bipolar disorder lived in U.S. nursing homes last year—many of whom moved directly into homes from jail cells, shelters and psychiatric wards.

According to the Associated Press, many states are mixing the mentally ill with the elderly because the federal government will help pay for resident care under Medicaid regardless of their age—as long as the nursing home’s mentally ill residents stay under 50%.

In a post from earlier this year, our nursing home attorneys reported that a number of young mentally ill patients are being placed in nursing homes because many state mental institutions have shut down and there are no longer enough psychiatric beds in hospitals. Nursing homes also have beds to fill because of an increase of health and independence in elderly generations.

In the article, the Chicago Tribune recommended a complete overhaul of nursing home operation, because:

• Many nursing home facilities do not have staff or the qualification to monitor these mentally ill residents.

• There is an ongoing problem of nursing homes collecting government payments for mentally ill residents without providing proper care.

• The violent backgrounds of all mentally ill patients should be properly assessed annually before placement into nursing homes.

• Mentally ill offenders with criminal histories that are living in nursing facilities should be properly identified.

• Studies have shown that with proper treatment mentally ill people are less likely to be dangerous or commit crimes.

• Mentally ill patients are reportedly better suited in community-based housing, where their needs could be properly met, and more effectively treated and monitored.

Our attorneys at Lebowitz and Mzhen Personal Injury Lawyers also stress the importance of creating a safe, secure, and protected environment for residents in Maryland nursing homes, by making sure that mentally ill residents are housed in a different location of the nursing home than the elderly patients, and given the special care, attention and supervision that they need—to prevent nursing home abuse and injury and wrongful death.

Task Force Targets Violence in Ill. Nursing Homes, Associated Press, October 8, 2009
Nursing Home Reform: Advocates for Mentally Ill Urge Overhaul of Nursing Home Operations, Chicago Tribune, October 30, 2009
Nursing Homes Called ‘Dumping Grounds’ for Mentally Ill, MedPage, March 23, 2009
Mentally Ill Endanger Nursing Home Patients,, March 22, 2009

Related Web Resources:

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, (SAMHSA): National Mental Health Information Center

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, (CMS): Nursing Home Quality Initiative, (NHQI)

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