As of 2014, there are over 1.5 million elderly people in nursing home care in around 16,000 nursing homes in the United States. It is common in the United States for people to be sent to nursing homes as they become older and in need of more medically inclined attention. How good is the care in these nursing homes, though?

I have volunteered at and visited various nursing homes in the past, and I have developed a more negative outlook on the system itself. The treatment of the elderly is often unsatisfactory and disappointing to me.

Patients are regularly left alone for hours, bored and lonely, and I believe this can lead to depression. Although I know it is difficult for nurses to focus their attention on every patient at every moment, I do not think that leaving a patient alone for long periods of time, especially in certain conditions, is healthy.

I have worked closely with dementia patients this year, and I understand that it can be difficult to keep people in that condition entertained at all times. They forget things easily and sometimes are impossible to carry on a conversation with.

Loneliness is one of the biggest concerns for patients at nursing homes. Photo courtesy of Tribune News Service
Loneliness is one of the biggest concerns for patients at nursing homes. Photo courtesy of Tribune News Service

I have discovered, though, that even the most critical patients with dementia can be entertained by something. The hardest part is figuring out what that is. It is important that they get this kind of attention because even if they are “gone” in a way, they are still people who need personal care and interaction.

I do not think that the nurses and staff are to blame for this negligence. There are overwhelming numbers of patients in nursing homes and not enough staff to go around. It is the joint responsibility of the nurses, other staff in the homes and family of the patients to ensure that the appropriate attention is given to every patient.

In my time volunteering at and visiting nursing homes, I have noticed that the happiest people are the ones who are visited by family and friends – they love to receive visitors who will take an opportunity to spend time with them and talk. Even visitors they do not know are welcome to many of the people in the homes.

I find it extremely important for them to have these opportunities to see the outside world that they are often cut off from when staying in a nursing home. I encourage people to take the time to volunteer in a nursing home at some point because it is so meaningful to the patients.

Another problem that I find with nursing home care is the preparedness of the staff. Frequently, I have observed that staff members are not trained properly in taking care of patients. They take short cuts and perform basic care tasks insufficiently.

Again, I think this is due to the limited number of nurses in the nursing homes. Because there are so few taking care of so many, they become overwhelmed and attempt to work faster than possible to be careful and correct. Nursing homes should hire more people to allow better care for their patients.

Despite the fact that I find nursing homes disappointing and their systems to be inadequate at times, I realize that they are necessary in many cases. Families often do not have the time and resources to take care of their elderly relatives.

Still, though, I think the nursing home environment and care towards patients’ needs should be mended. It is important that more staff members are hired for more accuracy on duty and for family, friends and volunteers to visit the elderly patients in the nursing homes. It will make the patients’ day so much brighter to have someone to talk to and interact with.

1 COMMENT

  1. thank you for input on this subject. I am getting to the age where this is a concern for my husband and myself.

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