MYTH: If I enter a nursing home, I'll never go back to my home.
REALITY: One of the primary goals of nursing home care is rehabilitation -- helping residents to live as independently as possible. In fact, about 30 percent of all residents nationwide are discharged to home or home-like living arrangements. Those who cannot return permanently to their homes make visits there, health permitting. The healthcare professionals at Price Memorial will talk truthfully with residents and their families about the possibility of going home.
MYTH: A nursing home is like a hospital.
REALITY: A nursing home is not a hospital. Many people, especially after recent hospitalization, think of the nursing home as an extension of hospital care. They expect the same kind of acute, constant care they received in the hospital. In reality, a nursing home is different. It may help to think of it as just that -- a home -- which has nursing care available as needed, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
To understand the difference between hospital and nursing home care, it may also be helpful to look at four goals of a nursing home:
1. Rehabilitate the resident to his or her maximum potential, enabling the resident to return to independent living arrangements if possible.
2. Maintain the resident's independence as long as possible within the realities of age and disease.
3. Delay deterioration in physical and emotional well-being.
4. Support the resident and family -- physically and emotionally -- when health declines to the point of death.
MYTH: All Nursing Home Residents Are Confused
REALITY: Most people slow down physically as they age. For some, this is also true of their mental processes. Many people enter a nursing home because they are considered too forgetful to manage their own care. Often, however, this condition can be reversed with adequate nutrition, exercise, social stimulation, and properly controlled medication. In reality, you should expect to see a full range of capabilities and personalities among residents in nursing homes. Some residents will have completely lucid minds in fragile, handicapped bodies. Others will have healthy bodies but minds that are no longer functioning normally. Most will fall somewhere in between the two extremes.
MYTH: Nursing Home Personnel Are Not Always Gentle and Caring
REALITY: Some things about working in a nursing home make the job difficult. Lifting and moving adults who are unable to help themselves is physically demanding. Understanding the needs of residents who may be confused or unable to communicate for a variety of reasons is emotionally exhausting. Nursing home staff members care and try hard to do a good job. However, there will be times when, because they are human, they will fail to be their very best selves. The understanding of residents and families will help, as will praise for a job well done. Residents have the right to expect good care -- and the privilege to have their complaints heard if it is not received.
MYTH: There Is No Privacy in a Nursing Home
REALITY: Because so many nursing home residents need constant supervision, nursing homes are designed so that staff members can be aware of residents' whereabouts at all times. However, each resident has the right to privacy. Staff members, family and visitors are encouraged to observe the common courtesy of knocking before entering a resident's room. The nursing staff -- both professionals and nursing assistants -- are trained to respect the individual's modesty and prevent unnecessary exposure when providing personal care. Family members and residents should expect privacy and remind staff members of its importance if they seem to become careless in this area.
MYTH: Nursing home residents do not receive adequate care.
REALITY: Stories about neglect of nursing home residents generate news reports in the media from time to time, and that's precisely the point: These stories are not typical; they're unusual and they make news. It's true that a resident's request for attention may not always answered immediately. Other residents may be receiving care at the same time so that the assigned staff members have to delay responding to the request. There may be an emergency elsewhere in the facility that is demanding the staff's attention. However, any repeated incidents of unanswered calls should be reported to the nurse in charge or the facility administrator.
MYTH: Families and friends abandon nursing home residents.
REALITY: When elderly people need more care than their families can give -- and if they are admitted to a nursing home -- the professionally trained staff members there take over a portion of the care. However, Some family members visit almost daily. Friends may visit every few days or once a week. Most nursing homes have liberal visiting hours and are willing to extend those hours in special circumstances. Nursing home staff members are encouraged to help make visitors feel welcome. Ideally, relationships among residents, their families and friends continue much as they were before the nursing home placement.
MYTH: Nursing homes have an unpleasant odor.
Reality: Nursing homes should not smell of urine or feces. At times, unpleasant odors may be noticeable -- but that's true in private homes, too. Some residents do lose control of their bowel and bladder functions. Many times residents who can regain control are offered retraining programs to help correct the problem. For others, proper attention to bathing and changes of clothes help to eliminate stale smells. Many facilities are furnished with materials that do not absorb and retain odors. They are kept clean with today's highly effective cleaning materials, and they generally should have no lingering unpleasant smell.
MYTH: Almost all residents in nursing homes are female.
Reality: It's true that the women outnumber the men. As a national average, however, approximately 20 percent of nursing home residents are men. The fact that the other 80 percent are female merely reflects the fact that women outlive men in general. It also means, of course, that one in every five residents is a man.
MYTH: Because nursing home care is relatively expensive, staff members should wait on the residents.
Reality: Some residents and their families feel that -- because there is a charge for nursing home care -- the staff should be their servants. In reality, though -- if the nursing home is to meet the goals of rehabilitation, maintenance, preventive care, and support -- staff members must encourage each residents to do as much as possible for themselves. Independence is important to self-esteem. To plan and give needed assistance that promotes self-care, the nursing home staff must have expertise. And that's what residents and their families are paying for.
MYTH: The food is terrible in nursing homes.
REALITY: Good food is a matter of individual preference. Most of us have certain customary dishes that we're used to and styles of preparation that no one else duplicates. In a nursing home, some residents are on restricted or special diets, as ordered by their physicians. As a result, they have limited food choices. Eating food from the same kitchen and in the same surroundings day after day -- even with widely varied menus -- can become monotonous. After a while, nothing may seem appetizing. However, nursing homes employ dieticians to plan meals that are palatable, attractive, and that meet the nutritional needs of each individual. Food generally is well prepared and attractively presented. Dietary staff members are available to discuss problems concerning food, and they will try to alter menus within the limits of prescribed diets. In addition, most nursing homes permit family and friends to bring favorite foods to residents when they so desire.
MYTH: My possessions will be lost or stolen in a nursing home.
REALITY: In any institutional setting, there will be misplaced objects, errors in sorting clothes, and even theft. Before anyone assumes that an item has been stolen, it should be considered that a disoriented or forgetful resident may have misplaced it. If other friends or relatives have visited recently, they may have taken the item for laundering or safe-keeping. Many nursing homes recommend that valuable jewelry and significant amounts of cash be kept in central safe to which residents have access during business hours. Family members should label all clothing and personal effects with the resident's name. Despite all the safeguards, thefts may occur. When that happens, administrative staff members can be expected to cooperate fully with the family in finding the person responsible and notifying proper authorities. A staff member found guilty of theft can expect immediate dismissal.
MYTH: I'll be given medications that will cause me to lose control of my thoughts and actions.
REALITY: Every person has the right to know what medications he or she is taking -- and has the right to refuse any or all of them. Tranquilizers, pain-relieving medications, sleeping pills, and mood-altering pharamaceuticals are all powerful drugs. They do have an effect on how alert one is. Properly prescribed, however, these medications help rather than harm residents. Staff members, residents, and families all have a responsibility to ask about the appropriateness of medications if they observe adverse side effects.
Most people have their own perceptions and opinions about nursing homes. Sometimes these views are based on facts and real-life experiences; other times they're based on hearsay and rumors. And, frequently, these perceptions are based on a combination of all of the above.
There are many myths about nursing homes. In the past decade, nursing homes -- like all other areas of healthcare -- have changed in terms of staffing, policies and procedures, and the types of care offered. Many people fear the move from their own home to a nursing facility. They don't really know what to expect, and some of the myths they've heard are of great concern.
The healthcare professionals at Price Memorial understand these concerns. They want residents and their families to know the difference between myths and realistic expectations of life in a nursing home.