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More mentally ill admitted to nursing homes than those with dementia, study finds

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The number of first-time nursing home residents admitted with mental illness has far surpassed the number of first-time residents admitted with Alzheimer's and dementia, according to a recent nursing home population analysis.

Between 1999 and 2005, the number of nursing home residents admitted with a mental illness rose from 168,721 to 187,478. That is more than 50% more than the 118,290 residents admitted with dementia only, according to the study, which considers mental illness schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression or anxiety disorder. The rise in mentally ill residents was fueled largely by an increase in the number of patients with depression—154,262 in 2005, compared with 128,566 in 1999. They had higher rates of comorbid conditions than those with dementia or those with neither dementia nor mental illness. The joint Harvard and Brown University study, Trends in Mental Health Admissions to Nursing Homes, 1999-2005, employed Minimum Data Set information to track admissions demographics.

Researchers suggest that increased recognition and diagnosis of depression, coupled with increased options outside the nursing home for those with dementia, is the cause of the nursing home population trend. The full study appears in the July issue of Psychiatric Services, a journal of the American Psychiatric Association.
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