Nursing Home Survival Guide
Your loved one has been admitted for long term care in a convalescent home. You are sad, and apprehensive, and worried about how it will work out. There are numerous stories from friends and relatives about their experiences, some good, some bad. What should you do?
The first thing is to make sure all items of clothing are somehow marked with mom’s name. Because like she did when you first went to summer camp, it is inevitable, no matter how careful you and the laundry personnel are, that clothing will disappear. Just like the other sock that never comes out of the dryer.
Other things get lost, too. Like those very small digital hearing aids that are worth more than gold. When my mother lost one of hers, it was quite a shock to learn that the replacement would run over $2,000. Mom couldn’t afford to do that every day, or even every year for that matter, so the solution, we discovered, is to have a fishline type line attached to each hearing aid, with an alligator clip at the end of the line which attaches to the collar of mom’s blouse. Hearing aid stores sell them. This is the same thing as the short suspender type clips that kept your mittens with your winter coat when you were a little tyke. The plastic filament that connects the hearing aid to the alligator clip is somewhat stiff, and it will twist in one direction or another. If it hits mom’s hair or cheek when she turns her head, she will not like that annoyance, so make sure it stays behind her neck.
False teeth or dentures can also get lost. The funniest story ever told me by one of a client’s children was how their mother’s dentures just didn’t seem to fit correctly. After about two weeks of mother’s complaints, and her roommate expressing similar complaints, both families discovered that the two elderly women were wearing the other’s dentures. They didn’t know whether to laugh or cry, but the comical aspect overcame the sadness of the situation.
Another concern is preservation of dignity of your loved one. Having convalescent home employees who treat people with respect is vitally important. The best way to encourage that is to visit as frequently as possible, because the more you are present, the more the workers will try to please you. It’s just human nature. And if there are any issues concerning care, do not hesitate to bring them to the attention of the supervisor or social worker. Usually they will address any problems right away.
A significant issue is the living arrangement. It is difficult, even for a person with dementia, to adjust to living with another resident in a single room. All you can do is try to make mom’s area as homey as possible, with family pictures and sentimental trinkets and articles from home. If the roommate is very difficult, or for some reason incompatible with your parent, ask the social worker if a change of rooms is possible.
Let’s face it. No matter how good a nursing home is, it is not home. But a few survival tips here and there, and keeping a sense of humor on some of the things that happen, will help you and your loved one survive the situation. Remember, you survived summer camp, like your mother said you would.