The nursing home blues

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Photo by Tookapic on


I’ve got the walker cane, achey bones, not ready to go, nursing home blues.  Oh, yeah.

Is someone you know singing the blues?

I visited elderly homes as a teenager in a church group.  We would visit the lonely and sing to them.  I vowed emphatically I would NEVER put anyone I loved in a place like that!  I came to eat my words and help others make the transition as well.

Not only did I visit as a teen, I went with my parents to visit when they began considering “independent” senior living.  It was a very emotional time for me.  In my heart I remembered my teenage vow.  My first thought was they don’t belong here.  FYI by the time they considered, mom needed nursing, but dad said he could help her.  I went along with this because the nursing homes usually separate spouses by the level of care needed.  This is horrible for longtime marrieds.  My parents had been together for over 60 years and rarely apart.  It worked for a while, then when mom had a bad fall the doctor insisted she be in full nursing.

Independent, assisted, nursing are 3 terms used to describe the transition.

Independent usually means you still can manage your own personal care and medications.  The independent senior may still want to get out and still drive, but may no longer want to manage a home.

Assisted living seniors need some help with medication reminders and possibly assistance with bathing/personal care.  But they are still highly functional.

Full nursing is 24/7 care with assigned RNs & CNAs.  This is the most expensive level of care.

An RN or a facility will visit with the senior or their family, and assess the level of care that is required.

So when is it time to move to the elderly home?

  1.  Maybe never.  If one is blessed with a lot of loving, willing family, or blessed financially, it is possible to stay home with caregivers coming on-site.  But keep in mind that nurses work in shifts and get days off.  I have met family members trying to be the sole caregiver.  They may burn out or get sick in the process.  Everyone needs rest, so have a support system and plan for time off.
  2. Or when the senior is no longer safe at home.  Are they falling, losing weight.  Is health declining?

How does one go about the process?

Conversations should begin well before the need arises, unless there is an unexpected event. Many years before the visit, I asked my parents what their plans were should they no longer be able to live at home.  Mom wanted her hair done weekly and Dad wanted the place to have good food.  Those 2 simple insights were very helpful to me. My mother also remarked that one sick old person can take down 2 healthy younger ones.  She knew from personal experience.  While in her 50’s she became sick caring for some of Dad’s family members.  She did not want me or my siblings do that.  I listened and remembered.

Not all elderly homes are created equal, so visit and ask a lot of questions.  When you visit, does the place smell clean?  Do people in the hall greet you cheerfully?  What does food look like?  Would you eat there?

Involve family members and medical professionals.  The more people on your team, the better.  I called on a couple of cousins once when I needed an objective point of view on a sticky unexpected issue.

Transitioning to senior living can be fun too.  I love the discounts I get...yes, I have reached the age.  And I hired someone to cut grass so I no longer do drudge work and may spend more time doing what I love.  One senior I help with paperwork has a special list she calls her Board of Directors.  This a group of people who make her life easier so she can do what she loves.  She travels and belongs to fun clubs.  On her list is her Housekeeper, Handyman, Closet/Fashion Organizer, a few others I forget, and me!  I am honored to be on the Board as one who helps her keep her paperwork organized.

If you are a senior in transition or know someone who needs help, maybe you need a part-time personal assistant on your Board of Directors.  Just ring my bell!


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