My Thoughts on Nursing Homes… for you Chatter Master!

I just finished reading Chatter Master’s post, “I Just Hurtle”, and I almost replied.

Realizing, however, my reply was more of a rant I felt it best to just haul off and “post” my reply.

Why is it that Western society has offered nursing homes as a solution for our elderly loved ones?  The words, “she would be better off in a nursing home” are just so predictable that it makes me want to vomit.  Can we not come up with something better?

I remember feeling trapped in the same scenario when my Dad was recovering in the hospital from pneumonia.  The hospital staff and CCAC told Mom and I that they would not release Dad back to his home and the best thing to do was to put him in a nursing home.  He was simply, “too much” for my Mom to handle on her own.  Dad used to say to us, “If I ever get too unable to take care of myself – take me to the back 40 acres and shoot me.”  Well, that was not going to happen, but neither would it happen that I would EVER put Dad in a nursing home.

I’ll confess that there are some homes that have wonderful care – but so many of them are so understaffed that an individual resident is denied the full care they need and deserve… as Chatter Master commented… after working hard all their lives.

Thank God I work in a school that also offers PSW courses and so when Dad was put on the nursing home treadmill I got busy and solicited the assistance of Janine, the PSW teacher, to help us find home care.  And that’s when our journey began surrounded by angels.  Diane came into our lives first, followed by Tessie and then a barrage of other angels.  I refused to abandon Dad in a nursing home.

This home care was not without it’s pitfalls.  Mom lost her privacy somewhat, especially when Dad’s needs grew.  I was no longer able to just visit Mom and Dad – it was always Mom and Dad and … whoever was helping out that day.  But losing her privacy was such a small price to pay for keeping Dad where he wanted to be:  home.

Their home was wonderful and it was a place where my children would always want to go and visit.  They had sleep-overs.  Who can say they would send their children for a sleep-over in a nursing home?  I wouldn’t want to – I don’t even like going there to visit.

Dad’s bedroom at home was the place where he went to sleep for the final time.  Everyone was there.  What a blessing.  How peaceful that transition was!  He was home.

Mom taught me that we did not need to follow “doctor’s order” or hospital orders – that we could think for ourselves in terms of what we felt was right.

I refuse to believe our only option for caring for our loved “elders” is to put them in a nursing home.  Society needs to become more creative and not just do what we are told is our only option.  We need to keep our families united at home – not a nursing home.

How can this be accomplished?

I became my Dad’s primary care-coordinator.  I cooked for him, payed bills for him, cried with him, laughed with him, and changed him when I needed to.  It was difficult for he and I and it was difficult for my family to give me up.  This coordinator required that I was with Dad a lot.  But my Dad raised me and put his life on hold for me.  It was my turn to give back to him.  And I do NOT regret it.

I’d like to think I’ve taught my children that there are options.  I’d like to think I’ve taught my children that it is possible to die with dignity in your own home and that death is a natural part of life.  We tend, as a society, to hide death and believe it needs to happen in a “hospital”.  Death is something that needs to be addressed as a part of life.

Nursing homes must not be dumping grounds or considered the be all and end all solution for our elderly who are not able to care for themselves.

Mom and Dad were my teachers even through death.  And by keeping them home they were able to live a better quality of life until the very end.

I think we can do better than nursing homes.

What we need are caring homes and caring families willing to make some sacrifices.  Our seniors deserve better.


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10 thoughts on “My Thoughts on Nursing Homes… for you Chatter Master!

  1. letstalkaboutlit

    I absolutely agree with you. Very well said. We need to become a society that takes care of our own children more and takes care of our elderly more. People are so busy running in circles accumulating stuff while ignoring the needs of our family members.

    • Thank-you for your comment. And it’s nice to know that someone else feels the same way I do. It seems we have moved away from our “humanity” somewhat and maybe it is time to check back in!

  2. Janine

    I agree that home is the best place to be until we pass from this world into the saving arms of our Lord.
    However there are circumstances beyond our control at times. I do not want anyone reading this post to think that putting someone in a Nursing home makes you a failure or a terrible family member. Staff in nursing homes are doing the best they can with the resources that they have . Most staff love their job and look after the residents as their own. Yes, the staff is overworked and under paid, however that is our fault as society for allowing this to happen.
    It is your responsibility as a potential, possible receiver of both home care and long term care to ensure that every politician is aware that there is a need for Health Care Reform. Ontario needs to look at other provinces and their Home Care System for examples. With the baby boomers entering the golden years we need to speak loud, so that when you or your loved one needs to care, our province will be on the cutting edge of home care services and long term care when it is required. Speak up if you want change!!!
    (PS that is only part of my rant… lol!! For those of you who do not know me I am the PSW teacher …..that has given her children the OK to put me on a list of the specific long term care facilities in Simcoe County. I have mine chosen…. I know that my students will look after me well.)

    • Oh, Janine, you have so eloquently spoken where I simply rant. You are so right that there are so many wonderful facilities (I said that, right?), I just wish that we were all more able to keep our own folks at home. Thank-you for introducing yourself and hopefully others will correspond with you. You were and continue to be a God send. I will never forget all that you have done for my family!

  3. Wonderful post/rant. As an investigator for adult protective services I have seen hundreds of different scenarios/family dynamics that each need their own answer. I have seen the most devoted of caregivers (from children, grandchildren, NEIGHBORS!, nieces, nephews, friends, etc…) who have truly committed themselves to the care of another. I’ve seen sacrifice that puts saints to shame. I’ve seen those who I wouldn’t have expected it from, step up to the proverbial plate and give incredible care. I’ve seen burnout that ends in catastrophic results. I’ve seen caregivers who are still parenting, and working, and providing care for an aged relative.

    There is no easy answer.

    I have told my children I will never ever make them promise me they won’t “put me” in a nursing home. And I’ve seen terrible results of people “leaving” their aged family members in an unsafe situation because of a promise made to not do that very thing.

    A nursing home should never be considered a dumping grounds. Sadly, it does happen. But I’ve seen, and advised many, who use nursing homes for what they are intended. A safe place to HELP families provide the level of care a loved one needs. Some people can provide this level of care at home. Some, for many reasons, can not. If a nursing home is needed the family needs to remain involved. REMAIN the lifeline of their family member. A nursing home can provide some hands on care while you still remain involved, giving, doting, advocating, assisting, interacting, and above all: LOVING.

    No one “wants” to go to a nursing home. Every time I see it I feel a piercing blow to my own sense of privacy and “home”. Sometimes a nursing home is the answer, sometimes it is actually a huge improvement in quality of life, and sometimes it allows a family to return their roles of loving family instead of burnt out, cranky, stretched too far multiple roles.

    But sometimes, it shouldn’t have to come to this. Sacrifice for those who sacrificed for us. You are so very right.

    Great post . Sorry for the long reply!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! You sound like you have sat in on some of our meetings!

    • I figured you would have something to say about this issue – well – you started it! (grin) This topic has received a lot of commentary on my fb page as well. Gives us a good indication that there should be more dialogue and solutions. Just give us some more options! There must be a better way…. how do we respect, recognize and allow seniors to continue to have a purpose right to the end? I think there is much more to be said even yet. Sounds like I need to sit in on some of your meetings, Colleen! TTFN

      • 🙂 I think it is fantastic people are having this discussion!!! Woot Woot!!!!

        There definitely needs to be more dialog and hopefully that will lead to some solutions. I think the key to most of this is : family.

        Family must remain involved and like you said, be willing to sacrifice if necessary (and many do). Unfortunately there are the situations where families are trying, and trying very hard, and still the situation remains ‘bad’. Or deteriorates because caregivers are being pulled in many many directions.

        Often times we have been able to assist families in finding services they had no idea existed.

        Anyone can call their local aging office, or Adult Protective Services, and ask for information.

        But mostly we need to all share the info we have and start thinking of new solutions. I know many of our nursing homes are trying to do just that, they don’t want people to feel they are going there to die. They want people to feel they are getting the care they need while they continue to live. And hopefully with the nursing home’s help, and family involvement-live well.

        Keep ’em talking Stacy!!!! It’s what we need. 😉

  4. Since World War II, the “keeping up with the Joneses” mentality means that there’s no room at the inn for the elderly. With that being said…..

    Back in 1988 I was outvoted 3-1 as to putting my wise old grandmother in a nursing home. I wanted her to come live with me. In retrospect, it would have been totally wrong and unfair to her.

    She went to an assisted living facility. Within just a couple of months, she was happy again, she was taking baths, she was dressing up, getting her hair done, watching movies, playing dominoes. She was enjoying life again. All she needed was people in her life, and since all of her children and grandchildren had their own lives, jobs, and families, they were not going to be able to give her the 24/7 attention that she craved, and deserved. The assisted living facility did, and she lived another 15 years, to the ripe old age of 93.

    • How wonderful that things worked out so well – and that a fantastic home was selected. You are lucky as so many homes result in families hiring additional care – as a result of short staff. Your story is very heart – warming and yet another testimony to that there are some very wonderful, caring people in this world. Funny how although each of our circumstances are different, we all have the same goal: to give thanks to those we love and to give back to those who have cared for us. What a great message – especially as we near Remembrance Day. Thank – you for you reply and story!

    • How wonderful that things worked out so well – and that a fantastic home was selected. You are lucky as so many homes result in families hiring additional care – as a result of short staff. Your story is very heart – warming and yet another testimony to that there are some very wonderful, caring people in this world. Funny how although each of our circumstances are different, we all have the same goal: to give thanks to those we love and to give back to those who have cared for us. What a great message – especially as we near Remembrance Day. Thank – you for you reply and story!

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