Mental Health in Assisted Living

Angie SzumlinskiNews

Serious mental illness is quite possibly one of the largest growing health concerns in our communities. I have recently had several clients reach out to ask about suicide prevention/self-harm best practices, policies, and protocols. It made me stop and think, do we have a bigger problem with mental health than we are willing to acknowledge? So, I did a little research and yes indeed, it appears that this is an area we should be paying close attention to!

In a study published in the National Library of Medicine last year, they found that the prevalence of serious mental illness in the assisted living market has increased by 54%, rising from 7.4% in 2007 to 11.4% in 2017. This is significant in that we have just journeyed through 20 months of pandemic and are struggling with staffing challenges across the country. As we look at this population of dually eligible seniors, how are we making sure we can meet their mental health/emotional needs?

In the skilled world, licensed social workers are required in the majority of centers however in assisted living (a social model) this isn’t the case. This doesn’t mean that we aren’t doing a great job managing the mental health/emotional needs in these communities but what happens if we can’t? Where do you go for additional support and resources? It might be time to take a closer look at your community members, watch for subtle signs of mental health issues, talk with families, maybe have “an evening with a counselor” where an expert can educate staff, residents, and families on mental health issues. Bottom line, be sure you can provide the care needed based on each individual resident’s specific needs, physical, mental and emotional. Stay well, stay informed, and stay tuned!