Aging With Mental Illness
Is there such a thing as Assisted Living for the Mentally Ill? The short answer is no. However, there are residential programs that focus on supporting adults and seniors living with mental illness. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, approximately 10 million adults experience a serious mental illness in a given year that interferes with their ability to care for themselves. So what happens when these adults age and face additional health challenges that their families can’t meet?
Here are some things to consider when searching for a residence for your family member living with mental illness:
- What are your loved one’s psychiatric needs? Traditional nursing homes and assisted living facilities typically do not have psychiatrists or other mental health professionals on their staff full time. Consider your loved one’s need for ongoing medication management and daily structured activities. Ask about expressive therapies such as movement/dance, art and music. Activity-based therapies are a great complement to traditional talk therapy/counseling.
- What are your loved one’s medical needs? The majority of people living with mental illness also have at least one major medical condition, such as diabetes or heart disease. Ask whether the residence has 24-hour nursing coverage and whether they are able to give out medications.
- Who lives at the residence? Peer support is crucial for people living with mental illness. Consider the age range of the other residents. Also ask about the range of psychiatric illnesses. If your loved one has no prior substance abuse history, placing them in a residence that focuses on addiction may not be the best fit.
- What about cost? Most residential facilities do not accept insurance and 24-hour care can be expensive. Ask if the residence offers financial aid or if there are grant opportunities.
There is no right time to move your loved one to a more structured residence. Most often, it is the family that recognizes the need first because their loved one can no longer manage their daily activities. Recommendations for supportive living can also come following a hospital stay. A recent study found that the majority of caregivers who provide care for a loved one with a mental health issue considered the experience “emotionally stressful.” One of the goals of these residences is to provide family with the peace of mind that their loved one is being cared for and supported to live life to the fullest.
Brought to you by the Greystone Residential Program at Friends Hospital. Located on a beautiful 100-acre campus, Friends Hospital, part of Universal Health Services, is the nation’s oldest private psychiatric hospital, offering a quiet refuge where healing has taken place for nearly two centuries. Friends Hospital offers a continuum of care including level of care assessments; specially designed inpatient units for adolescents, adult and older adults; and a private residential rehabilitation program. Located on the grounds of Friends Hospital, the Greystone Program is a long-term community residence designed to meet the special needs of individuals with severe and persistent mental illnesses. If you have questions or would like more information, visit www.greystoneprogram.org or www.friendshospital.com. You may also call 215-831-6369.
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