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Thoughts on the negative connotation of nursing homes

August 18, 2008
by Kathleen Mears
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I remember, growing up, that my parents called the county nursing home the "poor house." They told me that older folks were housed there by the government because they could no longer afford to live on their own or take care of themselves. From the outside our county home looked inviting. It was a large white frame house with a wraparound porch and was surrounded by the remains of a small farm. One or two folks were always sitting on the porch during the summer, enjoying the weather while watching the cars pass on the state highway.

My first visit to a nursing home came during my sophomore year of high school. Our girls' glee club and mixed chorus sang at several nursing homes that Christmas. That was quite a revelation. There were no large nursing homes in our little town in the 1960s. Those we visited appeared to be former homes or apartment buildings. The residents were usually in a hospital type bed which looked really out of place with the rest of the room.

I thought our singing would make these people smile. A few of them did, but not many. Our last visit that day was to a small storefront, men's nursing home downtown. These fellows did not seem to be as ill and they enjoyed us very much. We liked the appreciative audience so two or three of us went back a couple more times before Christmas on our own and sang for them. But we realized the emotional toll it was taking on us and we decided not to go back.

In my 20s I went to a nursing home for physical therapy. This home was newer, larger, and very modern. It was built in the early 1970s. It had a large lobby where residents sat along with visitors. Some residents were tied to their “gerry” chairs. The nurses explained that if they did not restrain the residents they would not be able to sit in the front lobby safely. It seemed strange, but I felt it was better for the residents to see other people than to stay in their rooms all the time. There were a few times that residents wanted to leave with us. Sometimes a resident went out the door as we came in. The staff would quickly bring them back in, but my mother and I would still feel a twinge. In time I learned to walk right through the nursing home without becoming unduly upset by the constant challenges of resident care.

A more positive slant on nursing home life was our visits with Pop (my mom's dad). His Pennsylvania nursing home was in a two-story former hospital building. It sat on the hillside of a small river town. I know Pop did not want to be there, but he was a double amputee due to circulatory problems and he realized the care they provided was necessary for him. Because of visual impairment, Pop had not been able to read or watch television for years. He had a private room where a portable radio was his constant companion. It kept him informed and he could always converse about the news and his Pittsburgh Pirates. Pop kept active with his care and transferred himself for as long as he was able. He did not appear to be isolated or sad, although I am sure he felt that way sometimes. Pop usually looked out his window and watched people walking on the sidewalk below, particularly the young ladies.


Kathleen Mears


Kathleen Mears is a long-time blogger who has been a nursing home resident for 21 years. She is...



Kathy, thank you for your inspiring words. As a nuring home administrator I am always looking for better ways to improve the quality of life for our residents. We are very involved in "Culture Change" to make our facility more home-like and less institutional and I am very fortunate that my Corporation also embraces this change. Many of our ideas for Culture Change come from the residents as well who should have the first say in how they want to live.

Kathy this is very truthful and also heart feeling, to some.
Yes a nursing home should always be about a residents care, feelings,. And i believe you are tenderhearted and thoughtful to your self as well as others. In this blog, It takes a lot of feelings and also pain to be able to right this all done, and explain negative connotation in any nursing home. But Kathy you did it very well. Great job. I'm 13yrs old and i was truly touch by your words, and feelings in this blog. Great going
From Austin I think a nursing home should have a more private setting and study place for you and all residents as well.

Hello Kathy this is brandy
You are right in so many ways on this subject as well as your last one. Keep up the great work . i was truly touch by your story and your feelings. So many people feel this same way and now you have the chance to speak and be heard this is a great blog.