The Nursing Home Dilemma
Americans tend to think of nursing homes with disgust and aversion. Although one-quarter of all elderly Americans will spend some time in a nursing home, for many the thought of living in a nursing home is associated with feelings of uselessness, loneliness, and abandonment. These feelings toward nursing homes often exist in both older and younger Americans even when the only such institutions they have seen are pleasant, airy, cheerful places. Certainly the most attractive institution, perceived through the curtain of such attitudes, can seem to be a dismal place.
Furthermore, it is difficult to be reassured by the treatment generally given to nursing homes by television and the public press. The fear that a beloved relative might suffer from mistreatment in such an environment drives many families to go to extraordinary lengths to keep an elderly impaired person at home -- in his own home, if possible, or, if need be, in the home of an adult child or sibling.
Yet there are many situations in which placing a confused relative in a nursing home eases not only the patient's circumstances but the pressures on other family members as well. In some cases, the unexamined refusal to consider a nursing home for a memory-impaired relative causes more unhappiness and stress for a family than it would experience if it were to choose institutionalization. Even so, the overwhelming