A troubling story out of the Sacramento Bee recently highlighted a surprising problem with some nursing home facilities in California: a mixed-age population that may not be adequately supervised to protect frail patients.
While we typically associate nursing homes with elderly patients who need round-the-clock care for physical and mental deterioration, some nursing homes are accepting younger patients with mental disabilities, including addiction, which can lead to an unsafe environment.
Shift in population age can result in danger for frailer residents
According to a survey by The Sacramento Bee, 20 percent of nursing home residents in California are under the age of 65. This represent a 40 percent increase since 1994. The number of patients aged 65 and above has shrunk by 11 percent. As of 2014, one in seven patients in California nursing homes had bipolar disorder or schizophrenia.
The reason for the increase is based largely on financial considerations. Nursing homes, looking to maintain a certain number of residents, may be tempted to fill out beds with Medicare and Medicaid patients, regardless of age. This can lead to admissions standards becoming lax, subsequently putting patients in inappropriate settings.
Are nursing homes right for younger patients?
People with mental disabilities, including addiction, should get the care they need. This may include a safe environment in which they can stay and receive medical care. However, it is questionable whether nursing homes are the appropriate location for able-bodied younger individuals with chronic mental health issues. As more nursing homes have accepted patients with addiction issues, for example, it is unsurprising that some nursing homes have had street drugs smuggled into the nursing home. Similarly, facilities which have more knowledge of proper care for patients suffering from Schizophrenia are likely more appropriate than a traditional nursing home.
Placing a patient with a methamphetamine addiction in the same room as someone suffering from early-onset Alzheimer's disease, for example, benefits neither patient.
A younger population leads to less quality of care
The decrease in care standards for nursing homes with younger residents is not just speculation. According to the Sacramento Bee, nursing homes with younger patients have more health problems with patients overall. In addition, the greater the number of younger patients, the less likely the nursing home is to get a good federal rating. California nursing homes with the largest percentage of younger patients averaged 2.9 stars on the federal government's rating system, compared to 4.2 stars for nursing homes with a vast majority of elderly patients.
Neglect and elder abuse is wrong
It is beyond the scope of this blog to speculate on the right age mix of patients at a nursing home. What is clear, however, is that nursing homes have an obligation to care for their patients and provide a safe environment for all residents, regardless of age or affliction.
Nursing homes that do not adequately care for residents are not just committing a moral wrong; they may also be legally liable for the injuries they cause to residents. If you believe your loved one is in immediate danger, you can contact the authorities, including California's Adult Protective Services. People looking to hold nursing homes accountable for previous instances of elder abuse can contact an experienced personal injury attorney.