The Nursing Home: It’s Not Home Away from Home

The husband of a friend fell and fractured something in the hip area. His wife Mary was devastated when she learned he would be put in a nursing home. But there was nothing else she could do. It wasn’t possible for her to care for him at home at this stage of the injury.

Because both are dear friends, I did what I could to ease her burden. There wasn’t much I could do except visit, which I did as often as I could.

It was a wake-up call for me. You hear stories about how things are in nursing homes but you have to experience it to fully understand it.

This was a nice place. It was clean, it didn’t smell, there were many activities and amenities including regular physical therapy for Mary’s husband, George.

As nice as it was physically, it’s not the same as home by a long shot. When all is said and done, it was not a nice place to be.

I’m telling you about this experience for a reason, and I’ll get to it after I tell you a little about what George tolerated during his month’s stay n this nice “skilled” nursing facility.

Because George could not put weight on one foot, he was not allowed to get out of bed by himself to go to the bathroom. Like many older men, George had to make many bathroom trips. He reported that one night he had to wait half an hour for someone to respond to the “call light.” (The patient pushing a button at the side of the bed activates the call light.)

One Saturday while I was there, giving Mary a break, the call light system didn’t work. No one knew until George waited a long time for a response from staff. I went to the nurses’ station to ask why no one was responding to the call light. Turns out the system was down all day. How intolerable is that?

He was supposed to have a shower twice a week. Many times, Mary had to push the staff to provide that service.

The food was unbelievably bad. Too much carbohydrate, not enough protein and never once did a meal include a green salad. George was taken out of bed and put on a huge scale weekly, and they were delighted that he was putting on weight. That, apparently, was a sign of good care!

To make things worse, patients could not take “unauthorized” medications which included vitamins. To her credit, Mary provided “contraband” vitamins for her husband.

When I visited, as I walked past rooms I often heard cries of “help”. I would stop and ask what they needed, report it to the nurses, but I never saw a staff member take action.

On the positive side, George received excellent physical therapy and he is now at home, hopping around on one foot until x-rays show his fracture is healed, and he can once again become two-footed.

The point of my relating this story is to encourage you to think and plan ahead for your future, especially if you are at midlife. Most people don’t think ahead and the result is that the unmanaged aging process takes over and does whatever it is going to do. Many, if not most people believe that “what will happen will happen” no matter how well you plan, but that’s not entirely true. Certainly, bad things, including the normal ravages of time and heredity can do bad things to people who do their best to take care of themselves. However, I promise there is so much you can to avoid problems.

Are you exercising on a regular basis? Something as simple as walking for 30 minutes every day? You need to do that to help keep your bones strong.

How much water do you drink? At least 8 glasses a day? About ninety percent of our body is water, and to stay healthy, we have to keep replensihing it to lubricate joints, get rid of toxins and to keep the skin looking good?

How often do you eat simple, fresh veggies and fruit? Do you eat white or whole grain bread? In other words, does your diet help you stay healthy, or just barely nourish you? Are you taking supplements? This is critically important. The American diet is a disaster. Ninety percent of money spent on food is spend on nutritionally bankrupt processed food. Your body will put up with deficiencies for years, and when “old age” hits you pay the price. That’s when cancer and other deficiency diseases strike.

If you don’t know what supplements to take, are you motivated enough to spend the time and money necessary to learn? Self-education is essential. You can’t rely on your doctor, your neighbor or friends to teach you what you need to know. It’s very much a “do it yourself” project. And it should be; it’s your life!

Staying strong and healthy is easy, especially when you know what to do. Take care of yourself now. It will pay huge dividends in the future. It will diminish your chances of being incarcerated in a nursing home in the future, calling for help that may never arrive.