International Psychogeriatrics

Focus on mental health issues in long-term-care homes

Mental health service delivery in long-term care homes

John Snowdona1 c1

a1 Sydney Medical School, University of Sydney and Concord Hospital, Sydney South West Area Health Service, New South Wales, Australia


Background: The prevalence of mental disorders in long-term care (LTC) homes is high, but quality and availability of mental health services to assess and help in management of cases have been criticized.

Method: Literature concerning mental health problems in LTC homes was reviewed, especially regarding models of mental health service delivery and factors that affect development, persistence and reduction of symptoms and distress.

Results: The advantages of consultation-liaison arrangements and of telepsychiatry were noted. Discussions led to development of recommendations aimed at improving mental health expertise and provision of assessment and intervention services in LTC homes in diverse countries. Prompt recognition of mental health problems among residents is required, with availability of a team working within the facility to deal with these problems. Commonly such multidisciplinary teams are formed by facility staff linking with visiting mental health professionals or services. Quality of care is also affected by the organization, attitudes and education within LTC facilities.

Conclusion: Provision of optimal mental health care in LTC settings is dependent on adequate funding, availability of expertise and education, positive and caring attitudes, recognition of needs, and supportive teamwork. The latter should include cooperative links between well-resourced and under-resourced regions.

(Received December 11 2009)

(Revised February 02 2010)

(Revised March 31 2010)

(Accepted April 01 2010)

(Online publication June 18 2010)


c1 Correspondence should be addressed to: Professor John Snowdon, Concord Hospital, N.S.W. 2139, Australia. Phone: +61-2-97675000; Fax: +61-2-97678951. Email: