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Lemke S, Schaefer JA. VA nursing home residents with substance use disorders: Mental health comorbidities, functioning, and problem behaviors. Aging & mental health. 2010 Jul 1; 14(5):593-602.
OBJECTIVES: This research addresses whether residents with substance use disorders (SUDs) in VA nursing homes (VANHs) are distinctive in terms of their demographic characteristics, medical and mental health comorbidities, functioning, and problem behaviors. METHODS: Residents over age 55 admitted to VANHs (n = 27,002) were identified in VA administrative files, and SUD and non-SUD residents were compared. RESULTS: Compared with other residents, the residents with SUDs (18% of admissions over age 55) were more likely to be younger, male, African-American, unmarried, have low income and a tobacco use disorder. Controlling for demographic factors and smoking, SUD residents were more likely to have mental health comorbidities (dementia, serious mental illness, depressive disorders, and post-traumatic stress disorder), as well as AIDS/hepatitis, pulmonary disease, gastro-intestinal disorders, and injuries. SUD residents were less likely to have cancer, diabetes, neurological disorders, heart failure, and renal failure. SUD residents were more independent in activities of daily living, such as mobility and toileting. They were more likely to engage in verbal disruption but not in other problem behaviors such as aggression. With demographic factors and comorbidities controlled, the functioning differences were diminished, and SUD and non-SUD residents did not differ in the levels of problem behaviors. DISCUSSION: VANH residents with SUDs have distinctive patterns of comorbidities and functioning. SUD appears to represent a separate risk factor for VANH admission. Residents with SUDs present challenges but may have good potential for positive discharge outcomes if their substance use problems and limited resources can be addressed.