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Goodbye "Nursing Homes!"

Goodbye "Nursing Homes!"

3 reasons why the term “Nursing Home” needs to go away forever.

When you hear someone say that a friend lives in the “nursing home,” what images come to mind? Dark hallways, pureed food, and sad people that have been forsaken by their loved ones? If this is what you think of, you couldn’t be more wrong! Not only are those preconceived notions out-of-date, so is the terminology. Here are three reasons why it’s time to update your understanding of senior living and retire the term “Nursing Home” for good.

1.       Things have changed.

The senior housing industry has changed drastically, and yet the vocabulary amongst the public has been slow to adapt to the many shifts the industry has made over the decades. When convalescent homes, or nursing homes began to pop up around the country, they were loosely regulated, giving ample opportunity for elder abuse and rotten conditions. Today, the senior housing and care industry is one of the most highly regulated industries in North America prompting providers to closely monitor the needs of their residents and provide them with the best possible living conditions. Additionally, the industry has grown so significantly, there is a great deal of competition which also drives companies to provide excellent amenities and services to enhance the lives of those who live there. Along the way, additional services and apartment styles have been added to provide a variety of housing options beyond those offering only nursing care. If you are holding on to old perceptions, walking into a retirement community today might leave you in shock as many resemble a resort style atmosphere, complete with chef prepared meals, and salon and spa services.

2.       There is often more than meets the eye.

Many communities that are routinely labeled as “Nursing Homes” are far more than meets the eye, and frankly mislabeled with this term. You see, most provide a variety of living options like Independent Living, Assisted Living, Memory Support and Skilled Nursing Care. More updated terminology would refer to this type of a community as a “CCRC (Continuing Care Retirement Community)” or “Life Plan” community. Seniors typically enter the community at the Independent Living phase while active, healthy, and looking for a maintenance free lifestyle. In fact, typically, the bulk of the resident body is represented by those enjoying an Independent Living residence at the community. They enjoy priority access to additional care neighborhoods which are often within the same building if they should have a health crisis, however, many are able to avoid or delay transitioning to additional care levels due to the healthy lifestyle provided to them in their Independent Living residence. Using this term for a community that offers such a wide variety of services to elders with varying needs, and most with no health-related needs at all, is simply not a correct label. These communities are amenity rich and flowing with vibrancy, despite age or ability. You’ll find elders lifting weights in the fitness room, sculpting, painting, singing, volunteering, traveling, and fulfilling every dream that retirement offers. Once you witness all that a CCRC community provides, and behold the rich lives the residents are leading, you’ll likely retire the term “nursing home” for good, along with its many misconceptions.

3.       It’s offensive to those who live there.

The most compelling reason to retire the worn-out term “Nursing Home” is because it is offensive to those who call the community home. The generation of elders currently living in retirement communities were young adults when the former version of nursing homes was prominent. So, when we use that term to describe the home they are so proud of, they are quickly put on the defensive. To say that they live in a “Nursing Home,” based on their generational references, is slapping a multitude of unflattering labels on not only their home, but also on them. In the past, those who lived in nursing homes were viewed as abandoned or forgotten.  Instead, today’s senior aspires to live in such a luxurious community living a lifestyle of freedom and fun. Most adult children of these residents are far from grieving this decision but celebrating their parent’s decision and at times, envious of the lifestyle they are free to lead. Remember, these stereotypes can be offensive as it seems to unintentionally imply many things about a person’s personal wellbeing, as well as the conditions in which they live.

If you still need convincing, go visit a retirement community and you’ll quickly realize that communities that are doing it right don’t have residents staring at a blank wall while being served stale toast, as old thinking might suggest. Instead, the lives of these seniors are greatly enhanced by the socialization, lifestyle, and services found uniquely in retirement communities. Once you’ve reset your perceptions, you’ll be compelled to update your vocabulary as well.

Written by Jill Janes

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