Most people seem revolted at the thought of moving into a nursing home or putting a loved one into a nursing home. I’ve heard many people speak of seniors abandoned in nursing homes, seemingly forgotten and alone. My family’s experience with nursing homes is just the opposite.
I’ll start with the worst experience we had, I guess. It’s the worst not because of the nursing home but because of the rapid decline that my great grandmother suffered after an accident.
My great grandmother was a tough woman. (She was Grandma to my mom, but my sisters and I always called her Grandma Schneider. I guess we called her that to distinguish her from my mom’s mom, whom we call “Grandma.”) Grandma Schneider maintained her own house (light carpentry and repairs in addition to the everyday cooking and cleaning) well into her eighties. Even when her husband had been alive, she did the hard work. He would hold her tools while she repaired the car. (No kidding.)
One day, she went out walking (to the grocery store, we think. She could never tell us.) She fell about a mile from her house. She broke her shoulder and needed surgery.
After the surgery, the Grandma Schneider that I knew didn’t seem to be there anymore. She wasn’t in a vegetative state, but she wasn’t far from it. My mother thinks that she had a reaction to the anesthesia. (My mom’s not a doctor, so she doesn’t have any way to be sure.)
Grandma Schneider went from completely independent to requiring 24-hour skilled care. Mom, my uncle, and my Grandma (Grandma Schneider’s daughter-in-law) chose a nursing home close to all of us.
The nursing home took great care of Grandma Schneider. She always got anything she needed. Mom, my uncle, and we children visited often. The thing I don’t know is whether she enjoyed it there.
Grandma Schneider was almost completely unresponsive after the surgery that preceded her nursing home stay. I have no way to know whether she loved the nursing home, hated the nursing home, or had no opinion. She may not have been aware of her surroundings and may not even have been self-aware anymore. Her body was well cared for at the nursing home, I just don’t think her mind was there anymore, even before she moved in.
I guess Grandma Schneider’s stay in the nursing home was neither pleasant nor unpleasant for her. It just was.
I write about Grandma Schneider’s experience in the hopes that some of you will let go of the guilt that you might feel when moving a family member into a nursing home. Sometimes, like with Grandma Schneider, a nursing home is by far the best care choice for a family member.
I’ll write about my family’s other (very positive) experiences with nursing homes in future posts.