Things You Need To Know Before You End Up In A Nursing Home

A conversation I’ve had with quite a few people:

Notme McNotterson: What do you do for a living?

Me: I work in a nursing home.

Notme McNotterson: Oh, my.  I couldn’t do that.  

Me: Really?  Why?

Notme McNotterson: Well, you know….They’re….old….and sick and all.  It just seems like such a sad place.

First of all, nursing homes get an insanely bad rap.  They might have been insane asylums in the 1950’s, but now they are just really nice, clean, and safe places for people who need help to live. Do you know that there are more state rules and regulations in place for a nursing home than a nuclear power plant?  It’s true.

I’ve been visiting the elderly since I was a very little girl.  My Mema lived in a nursing home and we would visit her weekly.  I loved walking the halls (or even rolling in her wheelchair) and visiting people.  Yes, they are old.  Yes, some of them are sick, but many of them just need help.  Many of them are very happy, outgoing people who just need assistance with their medications or getting dressed in the morning.  This is a topic cloud that I will have to float on another day, because today is all about the inevitable.

With modern medicine keeping us all alive a lot longer than our ancestors,  a whole lot of us will probably end up needing assistance with our daily lives at some point.  Some people might think you’re lucky if you have millions of dollars and can afford at home healthcare.  I think that when I get to that point, I would much rather be in a nursing home.  To live at home alone with limited mobility and little access to the outside world is what seems sad to me.  The nursing home will have a lot of people around my age who will play cards with me and be my friend.  The older you get, the more a good friend seems to matter.

So, when you finally make it to your golden years and you realize you’d rather have someone help you take a shower than break a hip, please remember these important tidbits:

Compliment Your Staff-It’s not that nurses aren’t professional and courteous to all of their patients, but GOOD LORD some of these people can grab a hold of your heart and reel you right in.  If a patient calls me sweetheart or darling or asks me how my day is and genuinely wants to know- I. AM. THEIRS.  “You need 12 pain pills right now?  You don’t have an order for that, Mrs. Angelpuff but I will wake the doctor up right now, at 3 am if you’d like.  Yes, yes.  I love you too.” I have no idea if they’re playing me or not, but I don’t really care.  They are doing a very impressive job.

Get Personal-Learn your CNA’s and nurses’ names.  Ask them about their lives and their children.  Mention these things when you see them again.  They are going to be spending a lot of time with you and they will appreciate that  you want to see pictures of their family.  In turn, they will want to get to know you better.  They are better able to be there for you if they understand a bit more about who you are.  They love to learn about your family and your former occupations.  It gives them something to talk to you about.  It gives people a reason to remember you and who you are.  It makes your staff more likely to want to spend what little free time they have checking on you.

Live a Little-If you’re quiet and reserved right now, don’t worry, you have some time to change your tune.   Your pretty face and fun selfies might get you some followers, but the only thing that will keep you popular with the bunch in the nursing home is to be an outgoing ball of joy.  This is important for relationships with your staff and with other residents.  I guarantee you that I will be at every game of Bingo or ice cream party my nursing home provides.  I will be early and I will greet people at the door.  You think television and tablets will be enough to cure your boredom in your golden age? WRONG.

Stay Up To Date-Speaking of technology, I will always stay up to date on the latest doo-dads.  I am not a terribly tech-savvy person, but I know how to operate a smart phone.  As the times go by and new technology comes into play never say, “That’s too difficult for this old lady.” The residents I know with smart phones and computers are much more engaged in the outside world.  We can play Words with Friends or simply connect about the latest gossip on TMZ.  Something about my new 95 year old friend knowing that Kanye was a douche bag to Taylor Swift and that big booties are now IN earns them some mad respect.

State the Obvious-If a staff member looks burned out, tell them so.  Ask them if they’ve had a rough night.  When they help you out, tell them that they’re doing a great job and you appreciate it.  A simple, “You’ve been running around all night”, lets people know that you’ve noticed that they are doing their best.  They will never ever admit it, but when you notice another resident being unnecessarily rude to a staff member, and comment on it, they are so relieved.  They think, “Thank you!  Thank you sweet little lady for noticing that this other little lady was being so mean to me!  I LOVE YOU LITTLE LADY!!!!  I want to bring you some CANDEEEEHHHHH”  I mean, who doesn’t mind saying a few kind words for a piece of candy?

Take Your Dag-Gum Meds-I cannot stress this enough.  Your meds were prescribed to you for a reason.  The nurses did not just pour a bunch of random pills in a cup and ask you to swallow them.  Your nurse will be happy to explain to you why you are on what meds, but your doctor is the one who ordered them.  And for the record, you don’t have to have acid reflux to be prescribed an acid reflux pill.  It is quite possible that your doctor ordered it because other meds you take can cause heartburn.  Now, wasn’t that thoughtful of him? If you have a problem with your meds, you need to tell your doctor.  Your nurse is just trying to do his/her job.

Try Not To Be Paranoid– Congratulations, you are now old.  You have made it!  With old bodies come old minds.  If you lose something, please don’t immediately assume it was stolen.  I have worked in a nursing home setting for 6 years and have literally NEVER had an object that was reported stolen actually turn out to be stolen.  Nobody wants your 10 year old pink flats that you swear you left under your bed last night.  I promise we didn’t take your Bible.  We have our own. It is insulting to your staff to immediately assume that “that girl” must have taken your blanket because you “saw her eyeing it” earlier.  We have to take your report extremely seriously.  It must be investigated. We would much rather help you find your item than fill out mountains of paper work.   A simple, “I can’t seem to find my necklace.  Can you please help me?” will work wonders.

I love the elderly so much.  Some people think it’s strange how much I love working with older people, but because of them, I honestly think I am going to be SUPER prepared when I get older.  Nothing will surprise me.  If I make it to that point, I will be the happy little sarcastic lady who the staff knows will joke around with them.

There is one more thing I didn’t include on the list because I am a nurse and I am supposed to encourage healthy habits so this will be unofficial.  Please don’t tell anyone.  You can find it down there….

SIGN A DIETARY AMA FORM- For the sake of living the rest of your life in happiness, you should seriously eat whatever the hell you want.


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