Missouri nursing homes caring for more mental health patients

St. Louis nursing homes are caring for fewer older adults and more adults with mental and behavioral health conditions, adding to the industry strain, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported March 28.

The Service Employees International Union released a white paper to the Post-Dispatch that found the average age of nursing home residents has dropped from 78 in 2000 to 69 in 2020. Lenny Jones, state director of SEIU Healthcare Missouri, said the change is likely happening because more older adults are choosing to live at home with support. 

The decreasing age trend is not happening everywhere, according to the report, but it is making the work environment more difficult. Mr. Jones noted he gets more complaints from people who do not know how to handle a situation or lack tools to deal with behavioral issues.

In interviews with the Post-Dispatch, some workers described incidents where they feared for their safety, and several claimed the training they receive does not match the population with whom they now work. 

The pandemic pushed many older adults to stay at home, and although there is a slow return to nursing homes, "people are not breaking down doors to get into nursing homes," Marjorie Moore, executive director of VOYCE, a nonprofit organization that advocates for nursing homes and its residents, told the Post-Dispatch.

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