Study shows inadequate psychiatric care in assisted living facilities

11/10/04

Research conducted among elderly persons residing in assisted living (AL) facilities in Maryland reveal high prevalence of dementia and other psychiatric disorders, but a lack of recognition and treatment by caregivers.

According to the Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, dementia is a mental disorder affecting an individual's ability to think, speak, reason, remember and move. Many types of this disorder exist, with the most common cause being Alzheimer's Disease. Of the 198 randomly selected AL residents surveyed in the study, 134 (67.7%) were diagnosed with dementia. While family or caregivers recognized 78 80% of the cases, only about half had been adequately evaluated and treated. The study also found that 26.3% of residents were suffering from other psychiatric disorders, most commonly depression and anxiety, with similarly low rates of treatment.

"Dementia and psychiatric disorders are common in assisted living [facilities] and have suboptimal rates of recognition and treatment," states Dr. Adam Rosenblatt, lead investigator of this Maryland Assisted Living Study. "This may contribute to morbidity and interfere with the ability of residents to age in place."

The article notes that this situation contrasts with the common depiction of AL as "a residential setting for cognitively normal elderly people with minor functional limitations." Due to the prevalence of residents presenting with dementia and other psychiatric disorders in the facilities visited, and the subsequent rates of recognition and treatment, data suggests that "AL staff may not be well prepared to manage mental and behavioral disorders, resulting in greater expenditure of resources and less favorable outcomes." Essentially, this inadequate care can lead to poor quality of life.

Rosenblatt relates the study to the increasing frequency of AL as a way of life for the elderly. As of 1999, about 600,000 senior citizens in the United States were living in AL facilities (1) and that number is expected to increase to 1.9 million by the year 2030. (2,3)

Source: Eurekalert & others

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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