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What Are the Different Types of Assisted Living for the Mentally Ill?

By Synthia L. Rose
Updated Jan 31, 2024
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Assisted living options for the mentally ill include residential psychiatric treatment centers, group homes, and home health care services. These options can provide long-term or short-term assistance, depending on the severity of mental illness. All options provide mentally ill people with guidance in completing daily living tasks, such as dressing and grooming, and offer medical treatment. A patient's freedom to interact with the outside world may be restricted, depending on the complications and dangers associated with a particular diagnosis.

Residential psychiatric treatment centers, also known as mental health centers, are one of the most restrictive assisted living options. Usually admitted voluntarily on the recommendation of doctors, government agencies, or court-appointed therapists, residents at these centers receive care for moderate to severe mental illnesses ranging from bipolar disorder and schizophrenia to clinical depression and anxiety. Staffed with psychiatrists, nurses and behavioral specialists, these centers are able to provide daily therapy through medication and counseling.

Some treatment centers cater to specific demographics. For example, some restrict their residency and treatment to only children and teens, providing a youthful atmosphere with games, sports and in-house schooling. Other residential centers may specifically target older residents suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Often, special centers are available specifically to help military veterans whose mental illness might be the result of post-traumatic stress disorder. This type of specialization at places offering assisted living for the mentally ill allows more customized resources, center design, and services as well as a higher level of comfort and camaraderie for patients.

Unlike treatment centers, which are rarely found in residential neighborhoods, group homes are small facilities that house a dozen or so residents in a typical single-family or multi-family home in the middle of a mainstream neighborhood. These residents, under the supervision of trained medical and behavioral staff, can learn to interact with other citizens by going to parks and other neighborhood settings. This type of facility, usually for mild to moderate psychiatric cases, offers low-restriction assisted living with locked or monitored exit doors and a curfew.

Home health care options also offer mild to moderate assistance for the mentally ill. The patient remains in his or her own home, receiving additional help from nurses or aides who visit on a schedule. Some assistants come daily while others might visit once a week. The benefit of home health care is that the patient has more privacy, control, and familiar surroundings. One drawback is travel, because the patient has to leave the home to attend doctor’s appointments or hospital exams.

Insurance typically covers all three types of assisted living for the mentally ill. Government grants and financial aid programs for low-income patients may also cover expenses for these treatment environments. Whether residential centers, group homes, or outpatient therapy in a home health care setting, these options for assisted living don’t necessarily have to be permanent; often, if age is not a factor, they can serve as transitional options to help a patient improve enough to return to normal living.

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Discussion Comments
By anon351222 — On Oct 12, 2013

Thank you. This is a nice article on assisted living for the mentally ill.

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