Deciding on a nursing home for dad

None of my grandparents spent their last days in a nursing home. None of their children have either – with the exception of my father. My mother died at home, my dad’s twin brother lived beyond his life expectancy with Parkinson’s – thanks to my aunt’s ministrations in their home. Other aunts and uncles suffered short, final illnesses.

My father’s situation condition mandated the services of a nursing home. Months after my mother’s passing, while still in his early 60s, Dad suffered a couple of strokes that initiated subtle changes in him. He continued to be approved for driving even after a broken hip lead to a hip replacement with a walker for stability.

These days, he uses a wheelchair and is in danger of a falling if he tries to get into bed by himself – which he has done several times before and after moving into the nursing home.

The combination of his strokes, diabetes, increased weight and a slowing of his mental faculties – along with his refusal to cooperate with those who would help him, all came together the day after he fell in the shower in our home. By the end of the day, he physically needed a wheelchair. A visit to the doctor, a hospital stay and his transfer to a local nursing home for physical therapy lead to his stay there with his greatly increased dependency on a wheelchair.

He actions and words summarized his situation the day my husband came to take him for a drive.

Dad, as always, insisted, “I can do anything. I can live by myself.” My husband was pushing Dad’s wheelchair out to the van. He stopped by the van door, allowing Dad time to show him that he could “do anything” including getting into the van by himself. Dad turned to him, “Well, are you going to help me or not?”

As always, my husband helped him. And as he would have done at home, if home care had been deemed do-able. But my husband is several inches shorter and many pounds lighter than my father – and we tend to be on the road frequently visiting our children and grandchildren, which involves days of travel to other states. In spite of his many protestations otherwise, my dad can not live by himself.

The day of the Teris explosion and fire underscored our decision. During the forced evacuation of the nursing home, family members could take patients home until the all clear sounded. Those who stayed were evacuated to a local church. When we arrived, my father’s room was empty. We followed the corridor to the large room where the staff and doctors worked on carrying out their emergency evacuation plan.
My father, confused at the disruptions and commotion, looked terrified. We agreed to take him home.

It only took about 30 hours of having him at home to show us the value of having a three shifts of staff to care for him. We could not persuade him that he needed any cleaning up. He grumbled that he was all right and refused any suggestion otherwise. We asked. We urged. He desisted. He sat in the lounge chair where he watched television and slept.

At the nursing home if he refuses one aide, another aide or nurse comes to his room later with the same suggestion or an offer of assistance and he usually accepts it. The multitude of helpers spreads out the difficulties of working with him to stay clean and healthy rather than it all falling on one or two persons’ shoulders.

He went to the nursing home at about the right time. Each month, each year his flexibility of body and mind have decreased and his fragility has increased. Months ago, the staff asked to address his compulsion to leave the facility by putting an electronic device on him which locks any door he approaches.

It is not the ideal situation, but in a world with far flung family members, the nursing home staff provides the secondary family, the helping hand in the midst of a difficult situation.

Placing a family member in the nursing home is not the choice for every aging relative. It is not the choice made for our grandparents, or my aunts and uncles, but it was, and still is, the best choice for my dad.





One response to “Deciding on a nursing home for dad”

  1. jeremystein Avatar

    What will you do when it’s your turn?

    I assume you want to prevent the same fate for yourself. What will you do when you get too old to care for yourself? Try to keep a cheery and complacent disposition so that your children will be happy to keep you in their homes? Exercise and eat right so that you’ll be able to do as much as possible for yourself?

    (By the way, I think that your [and Mom’s] efforts to date have been admirable. I am not questioning your decision.)