Background: Aging societies will be confronted with increased numbers of long-term care (LTC) residents with multimorbidity of physical and mental disorders other than dementia. Knowledge about the prevalence rates, medical and psychosocial characteristics, and care needs of this particular group of residents is mandatory for providing high-quality and evidence-based care. The purpose of this paper was to review the literature regarding these features.
Methods: A systematic literature search was conducted in PubMed, EMBASE, PsycINFO, and CINAHL from January 1, 1988 to August 16, 2011. Two reviewers independently assessed eligibility of studies on pre-established inclusion criteria as well as methodological quality using standardized checklists.
Results: Seventeen articles were included. Only one small study describes multimorbidity of a wide range of chronic psychiatric and somatic conditions in LTC residents and suggests that physical–mental multimorbidity is rather rule than exception. All other studies show prevalence rates of comorbid physical and mental illnesses (range, 0.5%–64.7%), roughly in line with reported prevalence rates among community-dwelling older people. LTC residents with mental–physical multimorbidity were younger than other LTC residents and had more cognitive impairment, no dementia, and problem behaviors. Care needs of these residents were not described.
Conclusions: Although exact figures are lacking, mental–physical multimorbidity is common in LTC residents. Given the specific characteristics of the pertaining residents, more knowledge of their specific care needs is essential. The first step now should be to perform research on symptoms and behavior, which seem more informative than diagnostic labels as well as care needs of LTC residents with mental–physical multimorbidity.