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Front Page » April 10, 2008 » Senior focus » Advantages and disadvantages of nursing home care for the...
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Advantages and disadvantages of nursing home care for the elderly

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Nursing homes offer around the clock, professional care for their elderly patients, along with a sense of community.

Sons and daughters often face difficult decisions as their parents enter their golden years. Particularly if one parent has passed away, deciding how to best provide for an aging parent once it's clear they can no longer live independently is difficult.

Oftentimes, a part of such a decision is based on whether or not to put a parent in a nursing home. Nursing homes can vary greatly on quality of care, but there are also several other pros and cons to consider.

The advantages of nursing homes include the following.

•While all adults are understandably fearful of putting their parents' care into the hands of complete strangers, nursing homes can be very beneficial. Here are some of the best reasons to choose a nursing home:

•Around-the-clock care: Most nursing homes are staffed with healthcare professionals 24 hours a day. Though doctors might not be there in the middle of the night, nurses are more than likely there keeping a watchful eye on residents throughout the night. At home, the biggest problems sons and daughters face is having the time to care for their parents. Most adults already have busy schedules, and depending on an individual's condition, caring for an elderly relative can be a full-time job, one most people simply can't handle in addition to existing responsibilities.

•A sense of community: People of all ages, be it toddlers or seniors, prefer to have at least some contact with others their own age. When elderly parents move in with their children, such contact is often unavailable. In a nursing home, however, residents often have busy social schedules, from day trips to museums and parks to activities within the home itself. This sense of community and belonging can be great for an elderly person's psyche.

•Not as risky as they used to be: While most children will always worry at least a little about a parent in a nursing home, homes within the United States are evaluated and results are available through Medicare. These evaluations take things such as quality of care and qualifications of staff into consideration, offering a clearer picture of just what your parent can expect from any given home.

Here are some of the posible negatives of putting a loved one in a nursing home.

•Expenses. Simply put, nursing homes are very expensive, and might actually be beyond the realm of possibility for many families. Unless parents have set aside their own retirement money for nursing home expenses, individuals might not be able to handle the heavy burden that nursing home costs represent.

•Remove a sense of belonging: While a good nursing home can provide a sense of community, sponsoring trips, dinners, etc., how much community provided depends largely on an individual's condition. For elderly persons who are largely bed-ridden or suffering from various levels of dementia, loneliness can settle in. And despite a family's best intentions, visits to nursing home residents have a tendency to get put on the back burner by busy families, further fostering that sense of loneliness.

•Lack of freedom: People who have lived a lifetime and made it to their golden years in one piece deserve their freedom. But sometimes nursing homes are so structured that such freedom is sacrificed. Nursing homes can't leave group participation entirely up to the individual because that leaves the possibility that a resident will not adapt and will fail to get the most out of living at the home. But homes shouldn't be so structured that a resident can't take a day off to spend with the grandkids or just relax. While most nursing home residents can't live independently, that doesn't mean all of their independence should be sacrificed.

Unfortunately some nightmares do come true: Everyone has heard the nursing home neglect horror stories. Even with government regulations and evaluations these things have a way of happening. And no son or daughter wants their parent to be victimized. To safeguard against that, seek referrals from friends who might have parents in a home or ask physicians to recommend a facility.

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