Research Article| Volume 12, ISSUE 3, P131-139, June 1998

Invisible residents: The chronically mentally ill elderly in nursing homes

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      This article presents results from a retrospective study of psychological assessments of elderly persons with chronic mental illness residing in nursing homes. All residents (N = 570) received this assessment as part of federally mandated screening for mentally ill persons residing in long-term care. The process, the Preadmission Screening and Resident Review, was mandated by the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (OBRA 87). These assessments were the first stage in a process to determine if the nursing home was the most appropriate placement for each resident. If nursing home care was deemed appropriate, then a psychological treatment program was to be established within the nursing home setting. The sample ranged in age from 50 to 104 (mean of 70). The majority had a diagnosis of schizophrenia and a history of psychiatric hospitalization occurring early in their life. The assessments did not include any quantificable data on activities of daily living, cognitive functioning, or level of psychiatric impairment. Therefore, the researchers coded the narrative data so that it could be interpreted. The majority functioned within the none-to-mild range of cognitive impairment, and very few were completely dependent in the need for physical care. The most recorded symptom was social withdrawal. Neuroleptic medications were administered to 64% of elderly persons with chronic mental illness. Importantly, there was no relationship between demographic or clinical information and treatment recommendations. Implications of these findings for psychiatric nurses are discussed.
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