Why is there so much misinformation and so many misconceptions when it comes to nursing homes? Probably because years and years ago, they were very unpleasant places. And unfortunately, there are still some bad ones out there. Today, most skilled nursing facilities are great places.
Admitting a loved one into a long-term, skilled nursing facility, otherwise known as a nursing home, is a difficult and extremely emotional decision for all involved.
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Here we will address common misconceptions and cultural perceptions that may or may not be true, but nevertheless influence our decisions and thought processes when a loved one may need the 24/7 care of a skilled nursing facility.
When faced with the daunting task of choosing the best facility for the needs of the patient and the family, the process becomes overwhelming, frustrating and even frightening. It's hard to know what to believe and what to dismiss. Research is imperative and will go a long way in making you and your aging parent feel good about your choice.
Are nursing homes where people go to die?
From her 25 years of experience, Barbara Fordyce, R.N., Case Manager in Senior Resource Management, considers the belief that nursing homes are the last stop before the funeral home to be today's biggest misconception about nursing homes. She finds this is especially true for those who were adults in the 1930s and '40s.
That particular generation is living a lot longer than they expected, and really have no cultural cues in how to handle getting older than anyone else they ever knew. They've watched friends grow feeble, forgetful and die. It's frightening for them, and the prospect of going into a nursing home may be an indication to them that their time is drawing to an end.
The fact is, even though many senior adults may require the 24/7 care of a nursing home after surgery, an injury, accident or health event such as stroke or heart attack, once sufficiently recovered, they may be able to return to their previous living arrangement or released to a caregiver for the remainder of their lives.
With people in the United States living longer than ever before, it is estimated that anyone over 65 years of age will have a 43% chance of spending some time in a nursing home. About 24% of these individuals will spend less than a year in residence at a nursing home. (www.therubins.com/homes/stathome.htm)
Even when returning home permanently is not an option, most Medicaid-certified nursing facilities will hold beds for patients during a short visit with family or friends. Each state has rules that vary, so check on how out-of-home visits are treated at any nursing facility your are considering.
Dealing with Guilt
Our culture harbors the belief that when we have a loved one who needs the care of a nursing home, the result is guilt and sadness for the family, and the end of any of life's joy for the patient. However, that does not have to be true.
Doing your homework before a relative is admitted is the first step to making you both feel good about your decision. Some ailing seniors are happy to go to a skilled nursing facility so they no longer feel guilty about the burden they feel they've been to the caregiver.
Your loved one also may be relieved to receive the medical, rehabilitative and nursing care the healthcare professionals provide in the nursing home.
And while most nursing home residents may miss day-to-day interaction with old friends, family and even pets, most facilities are upbeat, positive places. Patients often enjoy eating in dining rooms rather than in their rooms, and activities and outings offered each day to stimulate and entertain patients mentally, physically and socially.
Also keep in mind that a nursing home is not like a hospital. There are usually no restrictive visiting hours and your relative may be able to go with you for visits, family events and holidays. Expect nursing facilities to try to be home-like. People can feel comfortable, make friends, visit with family and continue life's activities appropriate to their age and capabilities.
Your research before admission and frequent visits with your loved one once moved into the facility will ensure that their time in a nursing home is beneficial and pleasant without any misery or guilt.