Ninety Years Old! Me? No way!

Tuesday, 21st March, 2017

Glennis Meacham shares her experiences living in a nursing home.

I HAD no intention of reaching 90 years of age. It just happened!

Until my 90th birthday I was quite independent in a comfortable unit with a nice little car.

Going into a nursing home could not have been further from my thoughts.

However, after 90 I noticed that my memory was not as good as it had been and then followed a series of physical and mental incidents which led to several hospital admissions without any acceptable explanation of my behaviour except "old age".

Finally (and I suspect in despair) my doctor said, "Look! You are 91 and cannot be permanently hospitalised. I will only approve your discharge if you agree to spending two weeks respite in a nursing home, after which you must decide - either to resume independent living or agree to admission to a nursing home."

This was not a request, it was an ultimatum. A nursing home? Me!

This situation and decision must be faced by thousands of ageing Australians who are encouraged to remain in their homes and be financially supported by the government, charitable organisations and relatives. This could well be appropriate for physical, social or financial reasons.

Nursing homes have received a lot of negative media coverage over recent years and one could be forgiven for feeling apprehensive before such a commitment.

The purpose of this article is to report my own experience as a happy resident (note, not "patient" "inmate" or "occupant") in a nursing home.

The respite period introduced me to what seemed to me to be an ideal nursing home for me, and the longer I am here the more confident I am that I made the right decision - for myself, my children and grandchildren.

There are good nursing homes, medium but acceptable nursing homes, and the barely acceptable.

The good ones may have waiting lists, so I urge old people over, say, 80, to think ahead - to visit their elderly friends in nursing homes and listen to what they and their adult children say.

Listen to them, look about you and compare your impressions with what you are hearing. Is this what you are looking for? Would it suit you and/or your spouse?

Priority No.1 is to be well cared for in a safe, efficient and friendly atmosphere.

No. 2 - The food should be of a high standard, health wise, in quantity and choice. (Eat all the fruit and vegetables you are given!).

No. 3 - You need never make a bed or plan meals again. No more need to worry about your medications - these will be recorded and presented to you regularly by one of your carers. Someone is always available by pressing the special button attached to your bed.

No.4 - It is important for there to be optional activities (eg exercise classes, tai chi groups, miniature croquet, bowling, card games). Visits by pet dogs, singing groups and bands should also be welcomed.

Everyone will find the first couple of weeks difficult. I did. The first time you go to the dining room for your meals you will find your environment has changed. I observed that there were more ladies than men sitting at their tables; some small groups chatted quietly together or patiently waited for their meal. At other tables, people who were unable to feed themselves were assisted by carers.

Some residents you will rarely see as they are confined to their rooms for medical or physical reasons, their beds being wheeled out for a spell in the gardens or to attend special entertainment.

Your mind will become programmed to accept and adapt with compassion as you recognise people who are worse off than you, and some better than you. The carers will be very helpful escorting you at all times and especially in the first couple of weeks.

Well now you know my experiences! Good luck with your decision making.

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