• mentally ill persons;
  • dementia;
  • nursing homes;
  • U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

Objectives: To determine the prevalence and correlates of behavior problems of residents of Veterans Affairs (VA) nursing homes and to compare residents with serious mental illness (SMI) with other resident groups.

Design: This study combined cross-sectional resident assessments with administrative data for all residents in VA nursing homes. Multivariate ordinal logistic regression was used to evaluate associations between resident characteristics and problem behaviors.

Setting: Nursing home care units in the VA healthcare system.

Participants: A total of 9,618 nursing home residents assessed as part of the VA's April 2001 national resident census.

Measurements: The Patient Assessment Instrument assessed each resident's verbally disruptive, physically aggressive, and socially inappropriate behaviors in the prior 4 weeks. Functional limitations in eating, mobility, toileting, and transfer were assessed. Diagnoses were evaluated for the stay and up to 6 months before assessment.

Results: Almost one-fifth (17.9%) of residents received a diagnosis of SMI. Residents with SMI or dementia had greater behavior problems than residents with neither condition. Residents with SMI (and without dementia) exhibited more verbal disruption than residents with dementia (and without SMI), but the two subgroups did not differ in physically aggressive or socially inappropriate behavior.

Conclusion: Many VA nursing home residents have SMI. Their level of behavior problems is comparable with that of residents with dementia. Clinical practice and nursing home staff training must encompass geriatric mental health and behavior management to meet the needs of residents with SMI.