Untrue! But we need to prove it to residents by helping them connect with their peers.
The false impression that they're alone in the nursing home is based on several factors:
· New residents carry the prejudices of most people outside the nursing home, believing everyone inside is confused or too ill to carry on a conversation.
· The tendency of people to believe they're unique, when in fact there are many uniquely interesting people in nursing homes. (I know they’re there—I've spoken to them.)
· Nursing home "old-timers" who are more alert tend to leave their units to attend activities. When newbies arrive, they try sitting in the hall or in the day room and, finding the more confused residents, come to the conclusion that everyone is confused. Then they retreat to their rooms.
· Because most residents are visibly physically disabled, people often incorrectly assume they're cognitively disabled as well.
Techniques for staff members to connect residents include:
· introducing new residents to others with similar interests;
· encouraging them to attend activities before they settle into spending their days alone in their rooms;
· recognizing strengths and sharing them with others in the community. (For example, a new resident agreed to be interviewed for a feature story in a nursing home newsletter.); and
· helping residents establish a welcome committee.
Dr. Barbera is an author and a licensed psychologist consulting in long-term care facilities in the New York City area. She frequently lectures on subjects related to psychology, aging, and nursing homes. Dr. Barbera is available for private consulting with organizations, institutions, and individuals around eldercare issues.