Giving up the little things at the nursing home

Today, my mom and her roommate were complaining about some of the things that were not being done around the nursing home. The complaints didn’t involve serious infractions, but it did make me think about how little control you have once you have to check into a nursing home.

Both Mom and the roommate said their bedsheets hadn’t been changed in two weeks. With my mom’s colostomy accidents, I would think you would need to be changing the sheets much more frequently. They also did not receive a fresh set of towels for the past two days. Again, little things, but both of these women are with it enough to want to maintain good hygiene, so it’s a shame to see their efforts thwarted by a shortage of clean supplies.

In the dining hall, I saw a woman in a wheelchair struggle to pick up her napkin, which had fallen on the floor. She almost fell out of her wheelchair trying to get it! I was about to get up to help her but then I saw an aide come to her table. But she ignored the poor old woman, assisted someone else, and left. Her tablemate noticed her struggling and helped her get her napkin.

I don’t blame the staff members, they are so busy trying to hand out the correct meals, then feed the many who can’t feed themselves. A dropped napkin is obviously not a priority.

But it goes back to dignity. And though ideally the nursing home is about restoring your health, which can boost your self-esteem, it also can be a place that kills your spirit.

Luckily, I’ve been able to help Mom out with some of the stuff she has needed. But I think about my father at the nursing home, and those long hours and days alone, when his needs may have been ignored as well. Not intentionally, but just as a side effect of being short staffed and my dad being a very quiet guy with dementia.

So many of the elderly’s struggles go unseen and unheard within the walls of the nursing home. While of course it’s depressing, I’m glad I’ve had the opportunity to witness the good and the bad of elder care firsthand.


Filed under Memories

3 responses to “Giving up the little things at the nursing home

  1. In a perfect world, LTCFs (and hospitals) would have adequate staff to meet residents’ (or patients’) needs. That said, the nursing home rent is far too expensive for residents to go without basics, like clean sheets. It would make me worry what else they’re doing without. I agree: staff members aren’t always to blame, but until everyone demands better for their loved ones, this sort of thing will continue.Unfortunately, not everyone is blessed to have a caring daughter like you who can advocate and help out. It is so sad how the elderly are living in the shadow of life, cast aside like a dirty sheet. Jane

  2. This is a very poignant description of some of the little indignities of nursing home care as conventionally practiced. There is a movement to establish nursing home standards similar to the patient-centered care now practiced at some of the nation’s best hospitals. Look for the “Planetree” designation: it indicates that the nursing home approaches decisions, from interior design to medical care to staff training and coverage, from the point of view of the resident-patient and his or her family or other caregivers. You can learn more at When our local hospital and nursing home embraced the Planetree philosophy, it transformed the quality of care in our community. Disclosure: I was so impressed by the care my family got at a Planetree hospital, I came to work for its foundation.

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