Watching Mom in the nursing home is breaking my heart!


Mom had always said that she would be fine with a certain nursing home when the time came that she needed one. The time came and we have worked hard to get her from Florida to New York and into the same facility (and same room) that her Mom was in a few years back. The place housed a different set of characters then, and a lot of the good feelings my mother got from the place back then had to do with how much effort my wife and I put into keeping the environment "lite" not only for my grandmother, but for many other residents.

Now that Mom is there, the current crop of residents is cranky, cliquish, and very negative. I am ten years older, but I still do my best to always arrive with a bunch of jokes, some thoughtful gifts for people, and sometimes even my ukulele. But it's a tough crowd this time around, and Mom is starting to get depressed just two weeks into her stay.

The table at which she dines twice a day is filled with gossipy ladies who like to trash people behind their backs and complain about every little thing that is wrong with the place. She dreads going to meals and that's the part that's breaking my heart. Her experience with these women is making her shy away from any social activities, and now she is starting to talk about wanting to go somewhere else. There is nowhere else in the area comparable that she can afford. And quite honestly, I don't expect her to be any happier anywhere else, as the real truth here is that she is devastated by losing her independence and being in the last stage of her life.

There really isn't a question in my post, but if anybody can offer any uplifting thoughts, I'd be very grateful. Thanks!

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It doesn't hurt to take an additional look at what other facilities are out there.

Do you know if she is in the right type of place to meet her needs? States vary on facilities, but I'm always amused when someone who is still active and alert is in a Rest Home, since in my state, they are for people who need daily skilled nursing care. Those with mobility issues do fine with Assisted Living. I just wonder if that might make a difference. Maybe she's not being challenged enough. I don't know how Assisted Living works in your state or if she is in need for nursing care.

The places that I know of assign the resident a seat in the dining room. I might chat with staff about your mom and see if a new place in the dining room might work better for her. Assigning her to a new table might help some.

There are also companies that you can hire for a professional visitor. They visit with the resident, bring treats, chat, and generally brighten the residents day. If your mom had that to look forward to a couple of times a week, it might lift her spirits. I asked about that for my loved one and they had free visitors that were volunteers from a local church. They asked a few questions and ask for permission for the visits.

When my loved one was in AL, she hung back with activities, but I talked to the social director and she made it a point to seek my loved one out and ask her to help her by getting to the activity room early and doing some tasks, like stacking papers or preparing the items they would be used for the social event. She loved helping, though, she wasn't able to participate that much due to dementia.

Does your mom have the resources to go out of the place for visits? Maybe, it's too soon, but it might be something for her to to look forward to. Do they have hairstylist on premises?

I have found that there are always residents who are not happy. You might keep in mind that many of those who are complaining a lot have dementia and they forget what they have already said, so they repeat a lot. If your mom realizes that, it might make some difference.

Sometimes it does take time to adjust. I think that a cheerfully decorated room, cards and phone calls can help.

I agree, give it time, it is the (unfortunate) nature of these places that residents tend to come and go, so hopefully she will soon find someone she can connect with. Are the dining seats changed occasionally? If not I would encourage you and mom to keep your eyes and ears open for a little while to search for more congenial dining companions and then ask for a change. (I have heard of an instance where no one wanted to sit at the problem table so staff routinely threw the newcomers to the wolves.)

I assume that residents can sit wherever they want for dining...can you arrive at mealtime, pull up a chair and sit at the table to see what kind of interaction different groups have, and keep switching until you find some that are compatible?

Same with social activities - avoid the backstabbers and try to find more considerate residents.

You might also walk to an admissions counselor, Director of Nursing or activities director to explain the problem and see if they have suggestions for groups of women that aren't catty or negative.

I've try intervention first before considering another placement, especially since you recognize that losing her independence is an issue. That's another approach - try to address that issue, which is a major one, as it may be that she'll feel uncomfortable in that particular place just because she doesn't want to be in a facility.

I feel for your Mom since she was hoping the facility would be like it was years ago when her own Mom was there.

The only thing I can suggest is that two weeks isn't long enough for your Mom to adjust. It's like going to college and being in a dorm, it will take time to make new friends and to get with the program. Maybe in a few weeks a new resident will come in that will click with your Mom and she will have a new best friend :)

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