Aug 14, 2016

When You Visit Me in the Nursing Home....

This is another of those Just Shoot Me Now posts! I am feeling discouraged because of an article written by a Ronna Benjamin about a visit to her grandmother's nursing home. The article, There is Nothing Fun about the Nursing Home, appeared in the Huffington Post Post50 blog. It was an indictment of a nursing home facility that housed her grandmother. She told a story of darkness and hopelessness. It was not what I needed to hear today or on any day for that matter. The last two paragraphs in the article left me wanting to cry:
I leave after an hour, wondering why anyone would live in a nursing home if there were other options available. But unbelievably, with every marble intact, my grandmother in fact made that choice.

"Writing is never 'fun,'" E.B White is quoted as saying. I generally don't agree; in this encore career, I wouldn't do it if it weren't fun. But there is nothing fun about a nursing home, and there was not much fun in the writing about it either.
The story hit very close to home because am old.  I am 71 and my husband is 75. We are both active seniors with a beautiful life style. However, the reality is if we live long enough and are not killed by a run away golf cart or something, we too will spend some time in a nursing facility. It is a given. It is what we will want because we will not want our children to care for us at home...period. My mother, mother-in-law, both grandmothers and grandfathers did that very thing. My father died suddenly at 76 and was spared this final stage of his life.

They were  all part of the decision in as much as they could be and did not act like spoiled children when the day came. There was no talk of running away or going back to younger days. In fact, they each brought their share of joy and grace to their new home.  I have always been proud of their selfless behavior.

As a family, we have learned some hard lessons about nursing home care and what can go wrong. We have also learned about the good things and the good people that will work with the very elderly. Even though I did not know what to do about the bad when it was my turn to take charge, I did learn to take action and make sure that those under my watch were cared for with as much love as possible. I got up off my bottom when things went wrong and found someone that could make some changes. I worked right along side the care givers to make things as good as they could possibly be. It was a labor of love.

Facing the facts is hard. Sometimes people need a lot of care and those of us that are not in a medical field and do not have homes designed for care giving cannot do the things necessary. Even those of us with the best of intention and motivation fail our family in that regard. As hard as it may be, many times there is no choices left.

Then there is the fact that society views nursing home and their residents today with the attitude that people had in the past about people with disabilities, mental handicaps or even physical disfigurement. Those people were kept in a closed room out of polite society's view. Handicapped children did not go to school because the other children needed to be spared the very site of someone that was different.

This attitude is the one that people take toward those that are suffering from disabilities related to aging or even the wrinkles and moles that appear over time! What I have seen is that when there are no choices and the decision has been made, families with desert their loved ones. Younger people can't stomach a visit to the nursing facilities. If their loved one does not recognize them they don't see the need to visit and be watchful. Hence, the nursing home horror stories. It could be that when they see what they do not like, they can excuse themselves from going to visit as often is necessary.

In a perfect world, all care would be loving and gentle. Everyone would grow old and remain beautiful. No one would come to a place where they were unaware of what went on around them. People would have no aversion to spending time with family members that lived where they could be cared for. Church congregations would come to the nursing home and worship and families would share movie nights with their loved ones. Birthday parties in small eating areas for provided residents would happen frequently.  There would be no alarms or even a unsightly person in a wheel chair...in a perfect world.

But this life is not perfect and what an outsider may see as ugly an insider over looks or even becomes blind to over time.

Bring me flowers....
You need to get over it please. Never mind how your grandmother or mother looks or how the lady in the next room behaves. They are still beautiful inside.

When I am very old and need to be cared for,  please come to visit. When you come to visit me, bring a book or some needle work or a small project of some kind. Wash my face and put lotion on my hands. Open the curtains and bring flowers or treats for everyone. Eat with me and don't act shocked when I spill. Go find the coffee pot and bring me a cup. Sit beside me and work or read. Just be with me as though we were at home. Provide a TV for me or bring your laptop computer with an old movie we can share or an old familiar song. Bring me magazines with lots of pictures. In fact, bring magazines for everyone and let me share them. Do what brings you joy and I will love it too...even if I cannot let you know. Hold my hand and hug me.

Be proactive for other residents and not just me. While nursing home supervisors will want things to be good, I will know they cannot  watch everyone.  Jump to your feet when an alarm goes off in the neighboring room and be standing beside it when the aid gets there to turn it off.  If a summons for help is not answered, go find someone to help.  Do those things that are not getting done...pick up things, clean just a little, strip my soiled bed. Become a partner with the facility in the care for me. It could be that employees will understand that you are a part of their community too and you want for them to succeed. I will become special in their eyes because of what you do. Isn't that a good thing? Besides, that is what I will want you to do.

I will be sorry I cannot bring you joy like I did all those years ago...I know that will be hard. Try to find a place in your heart for me. What you think as you sit beside me will be revealed in your eyes and I will know how you feel. I think you will need to bring the joy with you. I hope you won't mind. And I will need your acceptance more than you know.

b+

Note: Talk to the nursing home superviser if things are not what they should be. Find out what can be done. Contact the ombudsman in your state if the nursing facility is simply horrible and move your family member if things don't measure up. Be a part of a solution.

Note: First published in 2013 but nothing has changed!

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18 comments:

  1. Barbara. Very powerful.

    I remember one time I was at a recovery conference. The speaker said, "I have a son who is still out there. And I can't do a thing for him."

    He looked out in the audience and said, "But you can."

    Find a nursing home and spend quality time there with somebody very old.

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  2. It is not a perfect world. Agreed. I like your take on the nursing home experience. My ex-husband, age 59, is in a nursing home and I visit once every couple of weeks. It is hard to feel at ease there. I smile and nod..
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts--we are all aging and it's important to give some thought to what lies ahead.

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  3. Thank you for this, Barbara. I like to think that this is how my children will treat me in the event that I wind up "in a home." I think the bottom line is that old people are still people; all we want is the respect and love we've always had.

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  4. Beautifully done Barbara. There are indeed some very deplorable facilities which need to have all the staff members replaced and new life breathed in. The staff can be all the difference between misery and happiness. Our facility has been deficiency free two years in a row. We strive to provide high quality care. They choose their meals and eat from plates instead if trays, glasses instead of cartons. They are greeted each day with smiles and hugs instead of resentment. They have so much to teach us, so much to share.

    I commend you on your lifestyle and your choice to enjoy life. Keep spreading the word. Until the popular conception about aging changes, "those" facilities continue to profit from misery.

    Lesia

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  5. I just loved what you said. Now I'm going to read everything you wrote/write and not get enough sleep tonight. Love, Susan

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  6. My dear friends...I needed these kind words today. Looking into the future is very hard for me. I want you to profit from this post. I think you can see that it is the small kindnesses that make the difference.

    Be well and much love.

    b+

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  7. Oh did this hit home...living day to day watching my mom pass in a nursing home...now do the daily visits to the in-law's who share a room (one plus) its always been on my mind what it would be like. Mostly a reminder to make sure I take every day to live it to the fullest. But with our visit I try to make sure to offer any help or comfort I can to those living that life. Once my girlfriends thuoght the perfect idea would have to pool together this sweet lake house, a couple hired staff and live out life's end together. Hard to wrap my head around how we exit life...childless and alone. Hoping a movement comes along to heed more comfort for the aging! Thanks for the post! and reminder to myself to offer more ... loved you list of flowers, lotions, etc.

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  8. Nice thoughtful post. We have a mother (age 96) in "Independent Living" and an in-law (age 90) in "Assisted Living." So far they are doing well. But, I know ...

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  9. CJ

    I know how you feel. It is so interesting that we learn from those that go before us.I suppose when the time come for us we need to keep that in mind. As the elders in a family, we are the ones that teach up until our last breath is drawn.

    b+

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  10. Tom, thank you for checking in. Longevity must be the norm in your family. It is wonderful to see the words "so far they are doing well". That is wonderful.

    b+

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  11. Excellent post! I'm a former nursing home social worker who worked in it while it was still personal and after it became strictly about numbers--the workers were excellent but everything was rushed. I was needed to sign documents as I'm licensed
    As a single woman I fear getting old. I I end up in a nursing home or even assisted living without a child or spouse to advocate for me it will be difficult. Staff works harder when they see involved family or friends (which I hope to have for me)--it's just the way it is. I was always cognizant of that and sometimes yelled at by nursing supervisors for spending too much time with the people "who didn't count."
    I was very vibrant and enthused when I began. I left fearful--and this was truly one of the "best" nursing homes in NY. Social services was great--but there were so few of us

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  12. Pia, I think your comment speaks to the experience of every social worker. It is a bottomless pit of need versus time and resources. I know I have appreciated the help I received from people that like you. I probably did not say thank you near enough.

    I can see why you left fearful...as a teacher I was always aware that one wrong decision could bring my world down.

    Thank you for your comment. It is good to see you here.

    b+

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  13. No one in my family has ever ended up in a nursing home, but that is mostly because we just don't live long enough. I'm 73 and my sister is 71. We talked about it the other day and said it isn't something we ever want to do, but as you say, if you live long enough, sickly enough, you have no choice. :-(

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    1. The thing is DJan, in the end it is all about our attitude and spirit. We have so many other choices now...home care is available and in many way it is the key I think. Fellow seniors are the very best source of information so staying in touch with our world helps. Don't :(. It probably won't be THAT bad so we will worry about it when it happens...OK?

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  14. Beautiful, just beautiful. You are so aware of the reality of our lives. Thank God there is mercy and forgiveness.

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    1. I am glad that you found something that touched you in this post. That is what my writing is all about.

      Be well.

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  15. Nursing and assisted living care can be positive. With my mother and a close aunt, I experienced caregivers that formed personal relationships and consistently extended quality care. In both facilities, staff were treated with respect and management was hands on. I've had housekeepers with great pride in their wing and their patients. I've seen aides bring small gifts. I walk into a facility with my senses. How does this place smell, how does it sound, how does it feel, how does it taste, is this a place I could live. My mother's home was clean, well decorated, friendly, competent staff, good food, pleasant outdoor and indoor gathering areas. I never minded spending time there. I had access to the kitchen to stock her room refrigerator or pick up an afternoon coffee and snack. The other residents were friendly. Noise or cleanliness were never an issue. This was a non-profit midrange cost home. I've seen bad but I have also experienced three good facilities. Do your homework to find a caring spot.

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  16. Neither of my parents were in a nursing home and both died at 90 and 89. They lived with my sister who was in another state. It wasn't always easy but I think they did better there. So many people in our generation didn't have children to take care of them when they got old and so it makes it much more scary for them. I don't think 70's are old anymore. All we can do is stay active and take care of ourselves so we can be independent for as long as we can.

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