Now I will admit that there are some crummy facilities out there. One could no doubt create a bell curve for this subject, with a minority of homes under the leading edge of care and compassion, a minority under the trailing edge, and the vast majority landing somewhere in the middle.
But if you can find a great facility under that leading edge, chances are you’ll be much better off there than you would be living with your kids – a situation that has a bell curve of its own.
The nursing home where I hang out is one of those leading-edge places. Yes, there will always be a few discontented residents who never get past the fact that there are no family members or friends begging them to come live in their homes. But almost all get over it within a matter of months. They begin basking in the love of neighbors and staff – and thriving in activities designed to meet their needs and abilities precisely.
If you think you’d rather live with your children rather than in a great nursing home, consider:
- Your children don’t understand what it’s like to lose a beloved spouse – as my sister has said, to realize that you are no longer the most important person in anyone’s life. But almost all your fellow nursing-home residents know exactly what it means to be a member of this life-altering club.
- Your children probably don’t have an appreciation for the good old days, and the principles that were once foundational to American life. And they probably aren’t terribly interested in hearing about it, wrapped up as they are in their own lives and contemporary culture.
- And your grandchildren? Well, let’s just say that once they’re old enough to run off with their little friends, they aren’t going to gather around your rocking chair in Norman Rockwell fashion, eager to gather the pearls of wisdom you’d like to share with them.
In a great nursing home, on the other hand, you’ll be able to talk such things over, at your leisure, with people who’ve been there, done that. And you’ll also have the chance to share your memories in regular events designed specifically for that purpose. These sessions usually involve small groups of men and women with backgrounds and abilities similar to your own – no worries about not being as articulate as the next fellow. And they are run by staff members who not only appreciate your wisdom, your history and your observations, but are also vitally interested in what you have to say.
And that’s just the start.
In a great nursing home, you’ll never be in the way. There won’t be anyone trying to figure out what to do with you while he or she is off at work or out with friends. There won’t be any need to try to hide as those inevitable family dramas play themselves out. You won’t have to suffer the sting of watching your son- or daughter-in-law biting his or her tongue simply because you’re within ear-shot.
Just as important, in a great nursing home, your care won’t be delivered by amateurs who don’t know how to perform even the most basic caregiving functions; who are not trained to recognize the early signs of potentially devastating disorders from UTIs to bed sores; who won’t be there to hold your hand in the middle of the night, because they’re sound asleep. Instead, you’ll be cared for by people whose job it is – literally! – to enhance your health, comfort and happiness.
Yes, there will be some crummy and cross workers in any long-term-care facility. But they normally do not last long: It’s very hard work, and it doesn’t always pay all that well, and only those who have a real affection for the elderly tend to stay for the long haul.
So how do you identify a great nursing home?
Beyond making the obvious observations about everything from capabilities to cleanliness, I’d spend some time at each serious candidate before committing. I’d ask to observe some of the activities I might be interested in, and to talk with at least a few current residents.
I’d also ask various managers and workers about their faith – because when people who love the Lord Jesus Christ are charged with caring for your heart and your soul, you can bet that His love is going to be an ever-present comfort and joy to you as the final chapters of your life unfold.
Note that this doesn’t mean you need to find an explicitly religious facility. I suspect it might be even better to find one that is staffed by people of faith, who build their monthly calendars around events that glorify the Lord not because they have to, but because they want to.
These are among the reasons I have such a problem with advertisements like the one mentioned above – the brainchildren of copywriters and clients who think that living in a nursing home is a fate worse than death. These advertisers may well offer services that are right for some people; but I wish they’d simply highlight their credentials rather than trying to scare people away from their competition.