Editorials

Older people with schizophrenia: providing services for a neglected group

BMJ 1998; 317 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.317.7154.293 (Published 01 August 1998) Cite this as: BMJ 1998;317:293

It's the quality of their environment that matters, not where it is 

  1. Silvia Rodriguez-Ferrera, Specialist registrar in old age psychiatry,
  2. Christopher A Vassilas, Consultant in old age psychiatry (chris.vass@dial.pipex.com)
  1. Department of Old Age Psychiatry, West Suffolk Hospital, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk IP33 2QZ

    Schizophrenia is a severe psychiatric disorder affecting about 1% of the elderly population.1 Symptoms include delusions and hallucinations as well as apathy, blunting or incongruity of emotional responses, and social withdrawal. Most older people with schizophrenia will have developed the illness before the age of 45. In the past many of these patients have ended up in long stay psychiatric beds, but their exact number is unknown. In Britain the drive to close long stay psychiatric hospitals is continuing at a time when the elderly population is increasing.2 It is important that older people suffering from schizophrenia are not neglected as community psychiatric services are planned.

    One survey of five English psychiatric hospitals due for closure reported that about 20% of thelong stay population was over the age of 65 years and had a diagnosis of schizophrenia.3 Few studies have specifically looked at elderly people with schizophrenia, but those who reside in long stay wards …

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