Study: Higher than expected numbers of assisted living residents with dementia, mental health problems

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Two thirds of people in assisted living facilities may suffer from mental health problems, a finding much higher than predicted, according to a study appearing in the October issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

Half of the 2,100 assisted living residents monitored in the study suffered from dementia, and one quarter demonstrated signs of depression. More than half the residents took medications, including antipsychotics, antidepressants or sedatives. The residents studied lived in 193 facilities in four states. Included were three types of residences -- nursing home-like facilities, hotel-like facilities with active social programs, and "Mom and Pop" operations with 16 or fewer residents and not part of a chain.

These findings indicate that assisted living residents may have as high a rate of mental health problems as nursing home patients, and a higher rate than individuals 65 and over with depression or dementia seen by primary providers, said study co-author Dr. Maiaz Boustani.

In a statement issued Tuesday, the Assisted Living Federation of America praised the first large-scale comparative study of the mental health of those in assisted living, saying it addressed the challenges administrators face to accommodate residents.

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