This reflection has just come in from our friend Ron in Sarasota. If you have something you would like to share, please use the Contact page to get in touch.
I would like to share my family’s experience that resulted in the necessity of placing my Father-in-Law in a nursing home facility.
My Father-in-Law died last year at age 98. Until age 95, he still lived alone, drove his car, worked part time, cooked his own meals and tended to his mail.
But then, at age 95, he had several falls, and a serious near-fatal illness, the treatment of which aggravated his diabetes. The diabetes necessitated twice daily insulin shots which he could not administer himself because of a mild case of non-progressive Parkinson disease. This combination of factors meant he could no longer live independently, even though he still retained some mobility and remained mentally sharp.
We consulted with the local Agency for Care of the Aged and were told by them that the sparsity of the local population would not permit us to put together a 24 hour care regimen that we could rely on.
My wife and I lived a day’s drive from my Father-in-Law. He was easy to get along with and we would have been happy to have him come and live with us. But his commitment to, and his love for, the community where he had spent his whole life was so strong that, if we had insisted that he join us, it would have been a death sentence. He wanted to spend his remaining time in the area he loved.
Since his hometown had no independent or assisted living facility that could provide the medical attention necessary to his condition, the only choice left in his community was the nursing home.
Anyone who has ever visited a nursing home has said a silent prayer to themselves “Oh please, don’t let me wind up here.” It is, indeed , stark. That was certainly our reaction on first visiting the nursing home.
But here is what you don’t know. Any nursing home of any reasonable size will always have a contingent of patients who are mobile, alert, and engaged. They can make it to the dining hall for meals, they go to bingo, to pet night, and to all the other structured activities the home provides. Their mobility makes them a part of a shared community and thereby reduces their sense of isolation.
And the nursing home staff appreciate these mobile patients, both because they are only minimally custodial, and also, because the staff can relate to them and engage with them.
And if, as in our case, a local nursing home is the only option available, the family member living in the nursing home remains in the community where they continue to have the opportunity to see friends and families, to dine with them, and to continue sharing time with them.
Much credit goes to my Father-in-Law for his positive attitude and general good spirits which contributed to his making his final years in a nursing home successful for him and for his family. We visited him with the same frequency that we visited him when he lived independently, kept in touch with him by phone visits 3 to 4 times a week, sent gifts and mementos on special occasions.
While our choice was shaped somewhat by necessity, the reality of the situation was more positive than we had expected. We had the comfort of knowing he was receiving professional care. All his needs were met. He made friends with the staff, kept in touch with everything going on in the community he loved, and, importantly for him, he had the peace of mind knowing that should any emergency arise, he had full care to attend to him.
Perhaps there may be an outcome more optimal than using a nursing home, but in our situation the outcome could certainly be described as Win/Win.