How Working at a Nursing Home Can Change Your Perspective of Life

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About this sample


Words: 969 |

Pages: 2|

5 min read

Published: Jan 4, 2019

Words: 969|Pages: 2|5 min read

Published: Jan 4, 2019

I have worked as a paramedic for over 3 years now. In that time, I have been to numerous nursing homes as a result of both emergency calls, and as part of so-called routine transports to medical facilities. These experiences have included numerous encounters with the residents of these facilities, as well as visits to various areas and types of nursing facilities. All of these experiences have created a sort of amalgamation of nursing homes and their residents in my mind.

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Before diving into my feelings of nursing homes, however, I think it is important to note that, prior to the 19th century, the idea of the “nursing home” was nonexistent. Instead, there was a societal understanding that, in most cases, once elderly family members were unable to care for themselves, they came to live with their children for the remainder of their lives. In other situations, servants could care for the elderly, or they could find themselves in homes for the poor. (US Legal) However, as the changes of the Industrial Revolution left their impact on families, this became a less tenable option. Groups started homes for the elderly, however these were mainly for those who were of “good character” and of means, leaving others to the poor houses. (US Legal) By the 20th century, nursing homes for the elderly were developed thanks to federal funding, leading to what we now know as nursing homes. (Rincon del Rio)

When people think of nursing homes, they tend to picture communal living for a group of elderly people, with staff there caring for their needs. Instead, what I see is something similar to a college dormitory, inhabited by the elderly. They live together, often housed two to a room, and the share a common dining area, and partake in organized activities. There are some that are very capable on their own, needing some assistance with daily living tasks, and there are others who are incapable of caring for themselves without the frequent help of staff. From conversing with residents, the common sentiment is not one of resentment, but of resignation. “This is my life now” is a common theme. It’s not that they are angry, or depressed, about where they are. Instead, they are just aware of the fact that this is how their life will end. Many have DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) orders, and some even have more detailed Advanced Directives that instruct caregivers in their wishes for nothing but “comfort care” in their closing years. It’s hard to deny that these men and women have, in many cases, faced and often have embraced their own impending mortality. For the most part, these elderly residents are totally aware that this place is where they will take their final breath. And, it’s hard to forget, that this is also most likely true for you and I.

As hard as it is to imagine one’s own death, if you spend enough time around those that have, it is bound to happen. Undoubtedly, it is difficult to imagine spending the final years of your life in a place such as this, especially when young and healthy. We take things such as being able to go to the bathroom independently for granted. But once in one of these facilities, as age takes its toll, we become dependent for even basic tasks. In my visits, I have seen patients with frequent UTIs, often due to poor hygiene, and bedsores, due to being in the same position for a prolonged period of time. In addition, falls are an all too common issue. While this should not be surprising when an elderly person lives at home, it is frighteningly common even in these facilities. The lack of help when moving may be to blame. I wish I could say this was only the case at lower quality facilities, but it is actually a nearly universal truth. Faced with the reality that this may be my own life one day, it is hard not to become somewhat depressed by my potential fate.

When realizing that this may one day be my fate, it has led to a change in my perspective about life. While we all tend to wish for a long life, especially one in which we are healthy, I find myself thinking now that it isn’t the length that matters at all, but that quality. If I were forced today to choose between a relatively short, but independent life, of 50 years, or a century long life, including something like 15-20 years in a nursing home, I would be prefer the shorter life. It probably sounds like hubris coming from someone in their 20s, but this is something that I have come to staunchly believe. Life is meant to be lived, and unfortunately, it seems as though these facilities have instead become a place for the elderly to enter a holding pattern, where they await their final moments.

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I have visited many nursing homes, and I cannot deny that they provide benefit to society. They offer the elderly and the infirm somewhere to go, where they can receive assistance with their daily needs. However, where once family would take in their elderly relatives, we now stick them in facilities such as these. All too often, this means that these residents are deprived of the experiences of the final years of life, they are without their family. Instead, they often share a room with a stranger, and depend on staff that they may not be familiar with to assist them with the tasks of daily life. In the end, this becomes a place where people end up just waiting out the time until their inevitable end. I can’t help but despise this fate for myself.

Works Cited

  1. Caffrey, C. (2015). Reasons given by certified nursing assistants for staying in or leaving the nursing home: A qualitative descriptive study. Journal of Nursing Home Research Sciences, 1, 8-15.
  2. Castle, N. G., Engberg, J., Anderson, R., & Men, A. (2007). Job satisfaction of nurse aides in nursing homes: Intent to leave and turnover. The Gerontologist, 47(2), 193-204.
  3. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. (2019). Nursing Home Data Compendium 2019 Edition.
  4. Gruber-Baldini, A. L., Zimmerman, S., Boustani, M., Watson, L. C., Williams, C. S., Reed, P. S., & Sloane, P. D. (2005). Characteristics associated with depression in long-term care residents with dementia. The Gerontologist, 45(Suppl_1), 50-55.
  5. Harrington, C., Choiniere, J., Goldmann, M., Jacobsen, F. F., Lloyd, L., McGregor, M., & Stamatopoulos, V. (2012). Nursing home staffing standards and staffing levels in six countries. Journal of Nursing Scholarship, 44(1), 88-98.
  6. Kane, R. L., Lum, T. Y., Cutler, L. J., Degenholtz, H. B., & Yu, T. C. (2007). Resident outcomes in small-house nursing homes: A longitudinal evaluation of the initial Green House program. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 55(6), 832-839.
  7. Kelley, S. J. (2007). Providing a therapeutic environment in nursing homes. Journal of Gerontological Nursing, 33(11), 48-55.
  8. Mor, V., & Wiener, J. M. (2018). Nursing home staffing: Who's minding the residents? Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law, 43(2), 225-252.
  9. Zimmerman, S., Shier, V., Saliba, D., & Schnelle, J. F. (2014). Resident outcomes across 2 years in Green House and other small‐home nursing homes compared with traditional nursing homes. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 62(12), 2297-2304.
  10. Zisberg, A., Shadmi, E., Sinoff, G., Gur-Yaish, N., & Srulovici, E. (2011). Secrets of the trade: On the management and organization of nursing work in elderly care. Health Services Research, 46(6pt1), 1770-1789.
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