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10 common misconceptions about nursing homes

Nursing homes today are a far cry from what they were in the past. Policies and procedures, staffing, training, facilities and quality of care have improved a great deal in the last couple of decades. Nevertheless, because misconceptions remain, people often unnecessarily fear the move to a nursing community. In fact, the term nursing home isn’t often used anymore, they are now commonly called skilled nursing or long-term care communities. Some of the more common myths include:

Myth 1: A nursing home is just an extension of the hospital.
Truth: While a nursing home does offer nursing care 24/7/365 like a hospital, it does not offer the same intensive level of care. A skilled nursing community also has different goals than a hospital, such as:

  • Rehabilitating the resident and, if possible, returning the individual to their home;
  • Delaying physical and emotional decline;
  • Providing physical and emotional support for patient and family.

Myth 2: Once you enter a nursing home, you’ll never leave.
Truth: The main goal of a skilled nursing community is to rehabilitate residents in order to return to a more independent style of living, whether at home, with family or in another type of care community. Skilled nursing communities are often a temporary option for residents who need weeks or months of assistance recuperating from surgery, heart attack or stroke.

Myth 3: All residents in nursing homes are confused.
Truth: There is a wide range of mental abilities among skilled nursing residents. Some are there only because of physical shortcomings or health complications; others may enter because they have become forgetful. While most residents fall somewhere in the middle, it is important to note that forgetfulness is often improved or reversed through the simple lifestyle changes a skilled nursing community provides, such as social stimulation, exercise, good nutrition and properly controlled medication.

Myth 4: Nursing homes smell.
Truth: Skilled nursing communities that have been cleaned effectively and furnished with modern materials that do not retain and absorb odors should not smell. In addition, skilled nursing communities that pay close attention to bathing and making sure residents change clothes regularly should not have musty or stale odors.

Myth 5: Nursing home food is terrible.
Truth: Although some residents may be on restricted or special diets ordered by their physicians, culinary directors and dietitians employed by skilled nursing communities plan menus that are appetizing, attractive, and meet the residents’ nutritional needs. Most skilled nursing communities provide a variety of meal options so residents can choose meals they like. Many also offer an open dining plan that lets residents eat at the times most convenient to them. For example, breakfast may be served each morning from 7-9 a.m., lunch from 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m., and dinner from 5-6:30 p.m.

Myth 6: Medication will make you lose control of thoughts and actions.
Truth: All residents are informed of the purpose and side effects of any drug, and all have the right to refuse such medication. Open communication with medical staff about dosages and options is the best way to make sure individuals have a say in their own treatment.

Myth 7: Nursing home staff use immobilizing restraints.
Truth: Only residents at risk of harming themselves are restrained, and then only by direct order of a physician. When the risk of harm is deemed adequately low, restraints are removed. Those who must be restrained are checked frequently, and moved and repositioned at regular intervals to ensure they remain comfortable.

Myth 8: Nursing home costs will bankrupt you.
Truth: There is no question that nursing home care is expensive, but comparing the cost of similar care in a hospital or at home shows skilled nursing communities to be a sensible financial option. Before signing any contract with a skilled nursing community, prospective residents or their families should meet with a financial professional or elder-care lawyer to work out the best ways to afford care.

Myth 9: Nursing homes have no privacy.
Truth: Skilled nursing staff is responsible for resident safety and, therefore, need to know where residents are and what they are doing. However, residents certainly have a right to privacy. Many have private rooms and staff members always knock before coming into a room, and have been trained to protect modesty in personal care situations.

Myth 10: Family and friends don’t visit nursing homes often.
Truth: While skilled nursing staff provides physical care, the support and love of family and friends by no means has to lessen. Many families come every day, and visiting hours can be extended in special circumstances. The staff is trained to include families in every aspect of resident care and, when family members are unable to visit regularly, programs exist in many communities that involve interaction between residents and schoolchildren or volunteer visitors.

Making a big life change is never easy, but outdated beliefs about nursing home care should not factor into decisions made today. Through better understanding and attention to nutrition, emotional needs and the importance of enjoyable activities for mental and physical stimulation, today’s nursing homes not only provide residents with top-notch medical care, but also take pride in the art of nurturing mind, body and spirit.

To find out more about skilled nursing, or to find a Benedictine skilled nursing community near you, visit our locations page.