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Threat to the Elderly

Threat to the Elderly

The numbers of mentally ill patients who have been mercilessly dumped in nursing homes have been on the rise in recent years. This is posing a threat to the elderly population in these nursing homes. These mental patients are often ones who are younger and stronger, compared to the more frail elderly patients of the nursing home.

Janet Wells, belonging to the National Citizens' Coalition for Nursing Home Reform blames it on the lack of federal and state level care for the mentally ill and the elderly. In a recent survey, it was found that there were 125000 mental patients residing in these nursing homes in the last year itself. This is a nearly a 41% increase from 2002. The states that were leading with this dubious distinction were Utah, Missouri, Nevada and Alabama. It is to be noted that the mentally ill younger population makes up around 9 percent of the population in the country.

The main reasons behind this state are the closure of a number of mental institutions and a general shortage in the number of hospital beds in the psychiatric department. The condition has deteriorated since the early 1960s when many mental institutions were closed down because of civil rights issues and deplorable conditions in the mental institutions. Another reason behind this is the comparatively better health being enjoyed by the older generation today and a preference by most of them to stay at home unless they are seriously ill.

There is no official count available on the number of these assaults. In the year 2003, a mentally ill woman set fire to the nursing home she was residing in, it killed 16 inmates of the place. As she was suffering from a number of mental illnesses, she was not tried and was sent to a mental institution. Another notable case was that of Norbert Konwin, aged 77, who died after his 62 year old mentally ill roommate, hit him with a bathroom bar.

The federal law stipulates that the state has to determine whether the condition of the patient is such that he needs to be admitted into a regular nursing home. Unless this is done, a mentally ill patient cannot be admitted into a nursing home. The screening of the patients is supposed to be undertaken by the state. The federal law also provides a guarantee to the patients that they will not be abused in a nursing home. All this becomes useless under the conditions stated above.

Many a family has tried to make the state amend its ways by suing them. Most advocates also feel that this situation is totally unnecessary as the mental patients can very well stay at home and receive the requisite medications.

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