The appropriateness of nursing homes for individuals with serious mental illness remains a controversial issue in long-term care policy more than a decade since the landmark U.S. Supreme Court Olmstead decision in 1999, which affirmed the rights of persons with disabilities to live in their communities. Using national nursing home Minimum Data Set assessments from 2005, the authors compared the demographic, clinical, and functional characteristics of persons with and without serious mental illness newly admitted to nursing homes. They found that newly admitted people with serious mental illness were younger and more likely to become long-stay residents than those admitted with other conditions despite a higher proportion of residents with serious mental illness, including the elderly, classified as low-care status. The most substantial and clinically significant difference for rates of low-care status 90 days after initial admission are for persons younger than 65 with serious mental illness versus those younger than 65 without serious mental illness (33% vs. 8.5%, or 3.9 times greater). There is a notable difference in low-care status between persons aged 65 and older with serious mental illness and those aged 65 and older without serious mental illness (14% vs. 6.6%, or 2.1 times greater). These results suggest that a substantial number of adults with serious mental illness residing in nursing homes may have the functional capacity to live in less restrictive environments.
Keywords: nursing homes, Olmstead decision, PASRR, serious mental illness