In the book “The Soul of Care”, the author Arthur Kleinman MD talks about a nursing facility he had visited when thinking about placing his wife, whose Alzheimer’s disease was worsening. He said, “I pulled up in the rain-soaked parking lot of what seemed to be an unpromising nursing home. The outside was bleak and institutional. The carpet in the entrance hallway was old and faded, as was the flowered wallpaper. Unlike the other nursing homes we visited, however, is this one we saw residents smiling, taking part in activities, singing, doing exercises, playing bingo and other games, and surrounded by lively and engaged staff. We heard laughter and conversation, and we saw people moving around.”
I have worked in many nursing facilities during the years I worked in hospice. One of my favorites is exactly how Mr. Kleinman describes in his book. I love going to that facility. The staff is warm and caring and welcomed me with open arms.
I have been so impressed with the care they give people who “have no voice” as one caregiver there told me. Did you catch that? She feels that her job is to give her patients a voice because they have no voice. How do you have no voice? Dementia robs you of your voice. No longer can you say, “My right hip is killing me and I need something for pain.” You need sensitive caregivers and nurses to see the nonverbal signs of pain to know that is what is “being said.”
If you have to place your loved one in a facility for care that you can no longer provide and/or for safety issues, look for facilities that are clean (definitely) but listen for laughter and engaged staff and activities. Look for caregivers and nurses who look at the residents eye-to-eye and who enter their reality with a smile.