Monday, August 9, 2010

Can Your Parent Be Happy in a Nursing Home?

Looking for long-term care for your aging parents? Of course you want the best. But perhaps, due to Medicaid issues or heavy care needs, the only answer is a nursing home.

No need to feel guilty, says health writer Paula Span in the August 6, 2010 issue of the New York Times. Her article, "Finding the Right Home and Contentment, Too," suggests that the type of facility our parents live in might matter less than we've thought.

Quality of care, a pleasant environment, and responsive staff are essential, she says. But a posh facility with all the bells and whistles may not be where your parent wants to live. The brand-new assisted living decked out with a bistro, gourmet meals and a spa may not be a great improvement over a nursing home.

Span sites a study in the Journal of Applied Gerontology which surveyed 150 Connecticut residents of assisted living, skilled nursing facilities and adult care homes. Researchers from the Connecticut Health Center asked residents questions about their quality of life, emotional well being and social interaction.

Initially, assisted living residents were less likely to be bored or lonely and scored higher on social interaction. But when researchers considered other things, differences eroded.

A resident's well being is the sum total of several factors, says lead author, Julie Robison, associate professor of medicine at the university. "It's the characteristic of the specific environment they're in, combined with their own personal characteristics--how healthy they feel they are, their age and marital status."

An elderly person reporting being in poor health might be as depressed living in an assisted living facility as in a nursing home.

Residents who had input in the moving decision and who had lived there long enough to adapt did equally well in all care settings.

Bottom line: If finances or health issues necessitate a nursing home for your parent, don't feel guilty. Do your best in seeking a good, supportive facility, with friendly, competent staff. And involve your parent in the process--after all, it's his or her new home.

To see the entire article, go to "Finding the Right Home, and Contentment, Too," Paula Span, New York Times, August 6, 2010.

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