Mental Health Services in Assisted Living
Mental health issues in older adults are no new issue. Actually, the estimated range of seniors living with a mental health disorder is between 15 and 20 percent. Despite this, the issue is only beginning to be addressed in terms of living accommodations for these seniors. Until recently, there was no way to treat a senior living with a mental disorder such as bipolar or schizophrenia while in a senior home or community. The individual was either in a home for people with mental disorders if the issue was severe enough, or was simply not getting the treatment they needed.
Mental Health Care in Assisted Living Communities
While many senior living providers still struggle to meet the needs of individuals with mental health disorders, there have been great strides in improving and expanding the care available to these seniors in most senior care facilities. When senior care providers were faced with the challenge of accommodating a seemingly new problem with senior living facilities, many began to change to better suit what these seniors needed.
Accommodating Seniors with a Mental Disorder
Many assisted living facilities have begun attempting to meet the needs of seniors with mental health disorders simply by being honest – is the staff prepared to meet the needs of an individual with a mental illness? Is the facility equipped? This typically depends on the severity of the individual’s disorder. For example, if a senior has always suffered from mild to moderate depression, but takes medication, an average facility can probably safely accommodate this senior. If the disorder is more extreme, the facility and staff may have to assess the situation further. If a facility is worried that a particular senior may be a danger to themselves, other tenants or the staff, they may suggest the individual may be a better-fit elsewhere.
Many senior living providers have started holding group therapy sessions with a licensed psychologist, and others even offer one-on-one therapy sessions. Larger senior living facilities may offer onsite psychological care at all times. This is extremely helpful, and in some cases necessary, for individuals that are battling a mental illness.
Another issue within the older generation is late onset mental disorders. Typically, an individual that is battling any sort of mental issue is diagnosed between the age of 20 and 50. With late onset mental issues, a senior doesn’t even develop the disorder until later in life. For these individuals, many senior living facilities have begun to provide regular screening tests for illnesses like depression, anxiety, and more.
No matter how a senior facility chooses to approach the issue of mental illness in seniors, it’s necessary that they do approach it. For example, let’s say a particular facility is home to 200 individuals, and 15 to 20 percent of them are battling a mental disorder. If a facility does not adapt, that means 30 to 40 seniors aren’t getting the care that they need, and that’s unacceptable.
If you or a loved one are moving into an assisted living facility and need special accommodations due to a mental illness, be sure to bring this up at every facility you interview.