At a recent conference on aging and disability, I visited with one very excited nursing home employee, and I was all ears.
She was telling me that the old nursing home model is based on a military construct. Multiple beds in multiple rows of multiple rooms. Very efficient. Not very life enhancing.
Many nursing homes have improved on this model, greatly. We now have concepts such as the Eden Alternative and The Green House Project, which seek to give people who need full-time nursing care a more homelike experience. Animals and plants are part of the environment. Often a child daycare is part of the facility, and the two generations interact, rather like grandparents and grandchildren.
Several facilities in my area are now set up to let people start in a "retirement" setting, move to more assisted living, if that becomes necessary, and then to full nursing care, if that comes later. This is a good way for couples to remain at least within visiting distance, when one has far more health needs than the other, but the healthier one can't cope alone with the caregiving.
I've also visited a new adult day care that is free-standing. It's the only one in my area that isn't attached to a nursing home. Who cares, you ask? Apparently, many of our veterans from our local Veterans Hospital care. They say they'll go for an outing to this new place, but they won't "go near a nursing home."
The difference may be psychological, but it's an important difference if we look at it from the view of the attendee. It feels more like an adventure - like going out with friends to socialize - than the "one step on a banana peel" feeling of being hitched up to a nursing home.
Back to the excitement of my friend. She said their facility is plotting out the physical change that has already happened on the management and staff level. They are going to build a facility that is constructed like the small towns many of our elders grew up in. They will have intimate modules, with a "country store," where people can sit and visit, as well as shop; A barber shop that isn't "take a number and wait," but a place to chat and socialize. She talked of an ice cream shop and other small gathering spaces.
Her eyes shined with excitement. I thought, as I listened, that no one wants to get to a place in life where they need help for everything. But all of us, if we live long enough, will get where we need some help. If we have people with this woman's dedication and enthusiasm behind the development and/or improvement of our elder care facilities, we are, indeed, moving forward.
Published On: October 15, 2007