Imagine over 16,000 nursing homes in the United States caring for over 1.7 million people. There is a lot of care taking going on, day and night, in many different size facilities. The numbers also mean that there are thousands of volunteers, church workers, social workers, and health care professionals giving hours of their time, who seldom, if ever make the news. We know that caring for just one person is seldom easy, but a labor of love. It is a challenge to daily meet all the needs of 1.7 million residents, their families, friends, and at the same time meet the needs of the staff of a facility. Providing Nursing Home care takes community involvement.
Depending on the region or state you are in, nursing homes are known by many terms; including, Rehabilitation Centers, Convalescent Care Centers, Health Centers or Homes for the Aged. In many areas, the term Nursing Home has changed to Rehabilitation Center, reflecting the changing role of today’s nursing home. Until the mid 1980’s nursing homes were one of the few housing options available for seniors requiring care. As new community based models of care emerged, such as Adult Family Homes (Adult Foster Care), Assisted Living, and In-Home care, the demographic profile of nursing home residents also changed significantly. Today it is quite common for a senior to use the local nursing home as a stepping stone from the hospital to community based care or back home. The rehabilitation step that used to take place in the hospital, now takes place in a nursing home within a Skilled (Medicare Certified) section of the home, and as soon as it has been determined that rehabilitation has occurred, or significant progress has been achieved, then the person transitions either to an Intermediate Care (ICF) section of the home, goes back home, or to another community based care option. One administrator of a home in Oregon recently commented that over 75% of their nursing home population stay less than 30 days.
Most nursing homes are not the dreaded places we have often been led to believe they are. For the most part, the staff are caring people, and the residents have rights that are being protected by caring family, friends and health care professionals. It is important to visit, and ultimately choose a facility with this attitude. Depending on the time of day, nursing homes can be busy places with many frail elderly requiring lots of care. There will be smells at times, there may be lots of people around, follow your gut in visiting with the staff and residents.
Location, Location, Location. The importance of the home’s location can not be emphasized enough in relation to those who will visit the senior the most. Numerous studies have shown that residents who are visited often recover more quickly, and at the same time receive a higher quality of care, since the staff is well aware that visitors come often and come unannounced. So, please visit frequently, monitor, and participate in the senior’s care.
When-ever someone enters a nursing home in the United States, federal law requires for that facility to complete an assessment that measures the person’s physical, mental and social abilities. The facility is then required to draft a care plan that outlines such things as physical and speech therapy, range of motion, exercises, appropriate activities, diet and nutrition to enable the resident to reach the highest practical level of functioning. It is important that family and friends who know the resident well, take part in the care plan meetings along with the resident. Care plans must also be revised monthly. Try to attend these meetings.