Nursing home patients deserve safer residency

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Recently, the Chicago Tribune did a three-part series of news articles exploring the need for the state to remove psychiatric patients from elderly nursing homes. The investigating report done by the Tribune is the first to explore the obvious problems that exist when two vulnerable populations are mixed together. Each population has very different needs often leading to disastrous results.

The Tribune reported that the elderly have suffered hundreds of incidents of abuse since 1995 at the hands of psychiatric patients. The elderly are forced to live with the mentally ill because nursing homes need to fill beds. Nursing homes are so desperate to fill beds that some have even hired agents to search the streets and psychiatric hospitals for patients.

The Tribune found that many psychiatric patients are admitted to nursing homes untreated and unsupervised and that staffs often lack training to deal with volatile patients.

The question is obvious: Why aren’t we protecting our elderly?

When elderly patients are admitted to a nursing home it is because they are no longer able to take care of themselves. The elderly nursing home patients rely solely on the protection of those that are paid to take care of them. If our elderly are being physically abused by other patients and many are then they are not being protected. Men and women that took care of us for decades now expect the reverse from us and we are failing. We are allowing the state to set patient standards much too low. The government is loosely reprimanding psychiatric patients for their crimes and allowing our mothers, fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers to be poorly taken care of.

It’s no wonder nursing homes are struggling to fill beds. Fear is being associated with homes for the elderly.

It’s time for the state to put the elderly on the top of the priority list, and stop crowding psychiatric patients into facilities that are ill-prepared to care for them.

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