My Turn
One of the more richly satisfying experiences in life is to see a pontificator caught up in a real situation where he can no longer pontificate, but must participate. “Now we’ll see where all your fancy theories get you!” Such was the case for yours truly recently, when my mother was admitted for a two-week stay at a skilled nursing facility.

I won’t go into the confidential details of her case. Rather, I’d like to share my impressions of the experience as a family member. I did not identify myself as the editor-in-chief of Nursing Homes/Long Term Care Management (or my mother as the lucky parent of same); that seemed presumptuous and, besides, I just wanted to observe as “just another” visitor. So, for what they’re worth, here are my impressions.

My first impression: music. A lively and vigorous sing-along was in progress in the large activity room as we entered. There were perhaps 40 or 50 residents sitting about, and most seemed happy to be there. As we walked along, I noticed that the corridors were wide, quiet, and had no odor. A nurse arrived shortly after my mother got in bed and, within 10 minutes, picked up on a developing pressure sore my mother had acquired at the hospital (sound familiar?). I didn’t say anything, but was very positively impressed. Not so positive: an elderly and very disoriented-seeming woman yelling “Let me out of here!” every two minutes. Between that and some rather loud TVs in the vicinity (my mom’s included), the cacophony made me want to run.

As the days progressed, my mother underwent vigorous rehab to get back on her feet; she felt tired but satisfied every evening. She enjoyed the food and marveled at staff who, she said, “were always doing two jobs at once. One minute they’re caring for me, the next they’re serving lunch in the dining room.” (Again, sound familiar?)

She very much liked the staff-and I liked the unit manager and social worker, who took considerable time with me reviewing my mother’s needs, progress, and postdischarge alternatives. I never felt hurried in speaking with them, and they patiently and completely answered every question I had.

Venturing into the activity and dining rooms, my mother noticed a 102-year-old woman and a 98-year-old man, both of whom, she said, were “as sharp as can be.” She also noticed a less fortunate woman “who just sat slumped over; she wouldn’t eat, wouldn’t respond to anything.” A veteran of many nursing-home visits herself as a church volunteer, Mom said, “I often wondered then, and I wonder now when I see this woman: Why go on? I guess God just doesn’t want some of us quite yet.”

She had some interesting observations about the rehab staff-namely, “Physical therapists are all so tall. Is it from all the bending and stretching they do?”

I’ll leave it up to some of my friends in postacute care to figure that one out.

Basically, I came away from the experience quite satisfied with the overall level of care, and caring, provided at this facility. A good thing, too, because I wanted this column to end this somewhat gloomy year on an upbeat note. (Consider it my poor attempt at a Christmas present to long-term care.) I think all conscientious facilities like my mom’s should take heart, both for the near- and long-term future, because of the good they do.

Of course, I haven’t seen the bills yet…. NH

To comment on the editorial, please send e-mail to peck1202@nursinghomesmagazine.com.

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