I have mixed feelings about nursing homes. There are some very good care institutions and some awful homes. I think about nursing homes frequently because I’ve been closely involved with a nursing home the past several years in one way or another.
The first three years, involved visits to see my step-mom following her severe stroke. She had lost the ability to walk and talk, plus she had a feeding tube in place. She was completely dependent upon other people to provide care and comfort. The present relationship with that institution began with the rehabilitation my father needed after reparative surgery following his fall on his icy driveway a couple of years ago.
I have driven the 30 miles to the facility and back every week from 2008 to 2011 and again from 2013 until the present. In the process, I’ve become quite familiar with the staff and many of the residents of the home. Furthermore, my sister has been employed as a housekeeper at that same facility most of her working life. I’ve seen much of the good and the not so good aspects of that nursing home.
That institution probably falls within the norm for nursing homes in the United States. It’s a for-profit business, which means cost cutting to increase profits. At times, there is inadequate staff with minimal qualifications, insufficient training, low wages and a high employee turn-over rate. Also, the facility has had several different owners over its lifetime.
If it had been my initial decision, I would not have chosen that particular home for my dad. However, he is used to the place; is friendly with the staff; and has the company of some of his old friends, so he will remain there for the foreseeable future. Given the limitations of a small-town, for profit nursing home/assisted living institution, his situation is about as good as can be expected. He now lives in the assisted living section of the home, so he also enjoys more independence than he used to have.
Even the best case scenario troubles me. The thoughts of losing my personal freedom and privacy are depressing enough. When I think that I’ll probably be alone or stuck with an unpleasant roommate, my mood deepens more. I wonder how I will be able to express my creative instincts. How will I put up with what passes for entertainment? I dread having to look forward to Bingo and polka music or worn out rock hits. Most of all, I wonder how on Earth I will ever pay the exhorbitant rents.
I know many other people share my concerns and opinions about nursing homes. They are places most of us don’t like to think about. We don’t like to worry about the time when we may have to spend our “golden years” in such a place. Illness and infirmity are part of our life cycles. When the time comes, will we be placed in a decent nursing home?
I can’t help thinking about all of this today while the nursing home industry celebrates its public relations promotion. There are reasons to be thankful for the better nursing homes in the country. National Nursing Home Week is meant to draw our attention to the good aspects they provide to society. This week is also a reminder for us to regularly visit residents in nursing homes.
I admit there are some positive aspects about nursing home visits. I’ve met plenty of new friends and shared some touching moments with many of them. I see them as whole, complete people who still have some hopes and dreams. I’ve caught more than a few of them trying to flirt. All of them have interesting personal histories to hear. Many of them have wisdom to share.
As is found in any social setting, we form bonds and friendships with certain people. In addition to my family-related visits to see dad, I look forward to sharing my time with a few special friends I’ve come to know at the home. The good feelings are shared both ways, between the residents and myself.
This week is a good reminder that nursing homes are full of people who need and appreciate our love and support. This is also a good time to advocate for improved nursing home conditions and to express satisfaction for those nursing homes that go the extra mile.