Mentally ill nursing home residents should have more care options

A recent story tells how more than 4,500 mentally ill nursing home patients living in Illinois facilities will soon have the option of moving to smaller, less nursing intensive facilities under the terms of a settlement with the American Civil Liberties Union. The settlement applies to patients living in nursing homes categorized as Institutions for Mental Diseases or IMD’s, of which there are approximately 25 within the state.

The move comes after the well publicized problems regarding younger, mentally ill patients living amongst a predominately elderly nursing home community.

A timeline for providing the new housing options has not been released.

My take:

Nursing homes are medical facilities for people who require skilled nursing, not for the mentally ill. In this sense, I do feel as though moving younger, mentally ill patients out of nursing homes is a good step towards improving the safety of the fragile nursing home population.

However, my reservation regarding this development is the current lack of facilities on hand to accommodate these mentally ill people. I hope that every facility, be it new or old, receive a complete review of credentialing to assure that the mentally ill are appropriately cared for in their new living arrangements.

As I have seen firsthand, quasi-nursing facilities such as group homes, day facilities, and other alternative living arrangements can be dangerous for the patients’ physical and psychological wellbeing when staff at the facilities fail to monitor patients and take necessary protective actions.

Jonathan Rosenfeld is a lawyer who represents people injured in nursing homes and long-term care facilities. Jonathan has represented victims of nursing home abuse and neglect throughout Illinois and across the country. Visit his personal blog at and his Web site

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