Choosing a Place to Live: The Move to a Nursing Home Is Not a Favorite Topic of Family Conversation. but the Transition Is Much Smoother with Proper Planning

By McCollister, John | The Saturday Evening Post, July-August 1991 | Go to article overview

Choosing a Place to Live: The Move to a Nursing Home Is Not a Favorite Topic of Family Conversation. but the Transition Is Much Smoother with Proper Planning


McCollister, John, The Saturday Evening Post


The move to a nursing home is not a favorite topic of family conversation. But the transition is much smoother with proper planning.

Today, more than 1.5 million Americans live in nursing homes. And that number is on the rise. With the rapidly increasing number of senior citizens in our population and the aging of the baby boom generation, that figure will double in the next 25 years.

Nursing homes are a part of our culture and could be part of each family's future. Nonetheless, most of us still find it extremely difficult to discuss the subject with those we love for several reasons.

First, Americans love their independence. The idea that we would confine a parent or grandparent to the four walls of a nursing home runs contrary to our heritage. Yet, in most instances, residents of nursing homes admit they're happier now than when they were living with children or living alone. They certainly feel safer, and enjoy the company of other persons their age.

Perhaps some of us feel guilty even discussing the subject. After all, didn't our parents and grandparents care for us when we were young? Don't we have the obligation to nurture them when the time arrives? The situation becomes even more complicated if we have promised any of them that we would never let them be sent to a nursing home.

But circumstances do change. When we were young, we didn't require constant and vigilant medical care-we were able to care for ourselves. The aging process can alter our ability to do this. It places a strain on the caregiver. When the aging process demands that your loved one be somewhere where round-the-clock medical help is available, the nursing home is your only viable alternative.

The truth eventually hits home. We no longer debate whether or not we'll use a nursing home; our only question is which nursing home to select. All the evidence tells us one thing: early planning for nursing-home care will save caregivers and their families a lot of time, anxiety, and money.

When Should You

Consider a Nursing Home?

Most of us start too late. We wait until Grandma is too sick to function on her own. We fear not only for her health, but also for her safety. Time is precious. We need to make a decision now ! The best time for a family to begin thinking about a nursing home is when there are warning signs of deterioration, such as a change in behavior patterns or daily functions. When visiting the local mall, does Uncle Charlie wander off aimlessly down the aisle of a store? Does he forget simple things-family member names, the year, telephone numbers, and addresses? Has his physician diagnosed a degenerative disease, such as Alzheimer's? Is he forgetting or skipping meals, or does his health and appearance seem different or in distress? These are a few of the clues that tell you it's time to do some serious planning.

Popular nursing homes often have long waiting lists, so it's best to enroll the patient early once the decision as to which nursing home has been made.

Whom Should You Ask

about Good Nursing Homes?

Your initial thought would be to seek advice from your family physician. Unfortunately, most doctors know very little about nursing homes because they spend so little time in them. Normally, nursing homes employ their own staff physicians.

Your best sources for information are your clergyman or the social service department of your local hospital. They regularly work with staffs and residents of nursing homes.

Check for articles and stories in local magazines and newspapers. Word of mouth from friends and neighbors is a prime source of good information.

Some larger cities have senior citizen centers or United Way offices that employ people familiar with the nursing homes in your locale.

What Should You

Look for in a Home?

That depends on the needs of the future resident and on your finances. …

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