Nursing Homes Are Not a “Last Resort”


For many adult children, the idea of placing your aging parent in a nursing home can feel like a failure:

  • “That’s where old people go to die.”
  • “You should take care of your mother like she took care of you.”
  • “No one wants to end up in a nursing home. It’s so impersonal.”

Frankly, many Aging Life Care Professionals™ also struggle with these same feelings.

While it’s true that we’d all prefer to remain independent, in our own homes, for as long as possible, instead of living in an—admittedly—institutional care setting, the reality is that for some people, a move to a nursing home can be the best thing that could have happened.

Listen to the words of the late Clara Epstein, who wrote this about her move to a Worcester, Mass., nursing home in 2005:

Four years ago my husband became a resident here at the Jewish Healthcare Center after overcoming serious heart surgery. He lived here for 2.5 years, completely relaxed, becoming a person most loved by staff. They took care of him until the moment he died. Today is my 100th day here. I am like a new person. Ninety-two years old is only a number to me. I truly enjoy the care and the activities . . .

Advantages of Nursing Home Care

There comes a point in the progression of age and disease when the advantages of living in a skilled nursing facility—round the clock nursing care; physician on site; the ability to receive medical support without going to the Emergency Room; assistance with dressing, bathing, personal hygiene and eating; physical therapy; a wide range of social activities; safety and security—can actually be a boost.

Here are some of the factors that contribute to a nursing home move. Absent the ability, for whatever reason, to provide 24-hour home care, these are issues that often make nursing home care an essential move that can actually enhance overall health and well-being:

  • Incontinence;
  • Fall risks;
  • Advancing Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia;
  • Severe physical pain;
  • Emotional isolation;
  • Safety and security risks;
  • Frequent trips to the Emergency Room;
  • Primary caregiver(s) unable to continue in that role;
  • Limited public options in the community (depending on state of residence) and limited financial resources to pay privately for home care.

Valuing Needs of the Individual

Modern nursing homes place a high priority on the needs of the individual, allowing for personal tastes in waking and sleeping, when and what to eat, access to favorite music, participation in activities and more. Someone who has been living alone, with little if any company, immersed in anxiety and depression about life, can brighten significantly when surrounded by caring professionals.

Some individuals also thrive when their lives are simplified; that might mean being in a different setting. For family members whose lives have been consumed by serving as nurse, case manage and caregiver, appropriate nursing home placement can also mean a much needed respite and a return to other important family roles.

Choosing a nursing home, if that is the right step, takes careful research and consideration. An Aging Life Care Professional™ can help you and your loved one sort out the best options for appropriate placement and timing.

President of Deborah Fins Associates, PC, since 1995, Deborah Liss Fins is a licensed independent clinical social worker and certified Aging Life Care™ manager. Drawing on more than 30 years of professional experience in aging life care management, DFA offers comprehensive assessments and planning, guidance in selecting appropriate care, help identifying resources for financial support and professional consulting. Please contact us to set up a complimentary initial telephone consultation.

For more on coping with aging, follow us on Twitter: @DeborahFinsALCM.

Image Credit: Ann, “Betty Sophia and Eenie”

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