BY DAVE WEIMAN
Boredom, loneliness, and helplessness have been called the “Three Plagues of Nursing Homes.” But, they apply to other levels of services for the elderly, too.
A retired carpenter who loved to work with his hands, but due to arthritis is unable to do the simplest of tasks around his home. And he’s unable to find any satisfaction watching TV or reading books and magazines. He’s bored and finds that sleeping between meals is the best way to cope.
The widow who lives in a very nice assisted living home, but can’t seem to replace the everyday companionship she enjoyed with her husband of 40-plus years. Her family doesn’t live near-by, and all the couples she and her husband had enjoyed being with are doing “couple-things” and she feels like a “fifth-wheel” when she joins them. It’s less depressing not to be with them – but it’s also very lonely.
The veterinarian knew he had to close his practice and move into a nursing home when it became clear he could no longer manage the complications associated with his diabetes and heart disease. He still feels pretty good more days than he feels bad and searches for ways he can do for himself; maybe even help some of the other residents. He’s beginning to resent all the hovering by the staff – they make him feel helpless.
Dr. Bill Thomas, one of the pioneers in changing the culture of nursing homes to be homes instead of hospitals, is convinced that the “plagues” of boredom, loneliness, and helplessness are killing nursing home residents. He also feels that the plagues can be cured, even prevented.
And the basis of the cures is RELATIONSHIP. There are probably a dozen or more resolutions to the above stories. Finding them and putting them in place is not going to happen unless there is time and energy available to know and be known, to care for and be cared for.
And closely related to relationship, is SPONTANEITY. Schedules and checklists are good things to have, so long as they don’t become the only thing, and they can be adjusted as needed. One of the great stories I love to share is from a nursing home administrator who had been successful putting into place a number of best practices. But, these are not always easy to measure. He worried that the concept was not going deep enough into his organization. Then one day he overheard a resident telling a nursing assistant how unhappy he was that he couldn’t get to see the annual 4-H fair this year where his grandson was showing prize-winning rabbits. Without skipping a beat, the CNA said, “You want to go, we’ll get you there.” The administrator knew he had it!
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Dave Weiman is the founder of Care Compass, a free online site to assist elders and their families find Elder Care in the Peoria area. Dave has been engaged for over 10 years in improving the quality of care so elders can enjoy a life of quality.