Opinion: A Shift in Nursing Home Residents to Younger Psychiatric Patients

Source: Don Martin, Undark, March 9, 2021

The pandemic’s toll on nursing homes has opened up beds that younger people, often with mental illnesses, are filling.

One year ago, a nursing home in Kirkland, Washington, became an early battleground for the U.S. coronavirus outbreak. The disease has since decimated nursing home populations — more than one-third of the Covid-19-related deaths in the U.S. have been nursing home residents and staff. Virtually unnoticed is what has followed: In some nursing homes, a shift has occurred in the type of residents who live there, and Covid-19 is one of the reasons.

As older residents die from the pandemic and as more families choose to keep elderly relatives at home, some of these facilities are accepting more younger patients, including some with drug addictions and mental illness. Some patients have schizophrenia. Some have psychosis. This change in clientele can have a dramatic impact on the daily functioning of nursing homes, a change that administrators and staff may be unprepared to handle.