Dr. Cheryl Woodson

Don’t Let Lawyers Fuel Your Fears or Your Delusions When You Have to Consider Nursing Home Care

Yes, there are bad nursing homes where seniors suffer abuse and neglect, but I resent lawyers who prey upon terrified, guilty, and grieving families with sensationalized advertising.
Have your loved ones fallen? Are they dehydrated? Do they have pressure sores? They depend on you. Call us. We have been more successful than Jesus in getting families the money they deserve.
Yes, nursing homes can do better on falls. (I’ll blog about that in March), however, these lawyers emphasize symptoms that may not be the result of poor care. That pressure sore may be the result of immobility, incontinence, and poor circulation.
Today and for the next two weeks, I’ll post excerpts from the chapter, The Nursing Home Decision: You Promised “Never,” from my book TO SURVIVE CAREGIVING: A Daughter’s Experience, A Doctor’s Advice (2nd edition coming later this year.)

Honoring the Spirit of the Promise

Many families promise never to put loved ones in a nursing home, but the spirit of that promise is to always give the best care. Sometimes, families cannot honor that promise as full-time, hands-on caregivers. I have seen families try to cover twenty-four hours of care with only one or two people. It takes three shifts of nurses to do that in a nursing home, but unlike family caregivers, the nursing home staff goes home after eight hours! When families insist on this kind of schedule, the quality of care has to suffer. Is that keeping the promise?
Choose the Best of Bad Options
No one wants to use a nursing home. We want our loved ones to be so healthy that they don’t need one, but when we find ourselves in the position to consider nursing home care, that healthy option is no longer available. We have to make a difficult choice.
Many families think seniors get worse because they are in nursing homes. If people die shortly after admission, families regret the decision, feeling that they, or the nursing home, killed their loved one. Some nursing homes give poor care that worsens a senior’s condition, but in most cases, neither the family nor the facility caused the senior’s death.
Healthy people do not require twenty-four-hour nursing care; by definition, nursing home residents are not healthy. Most suffer end-stage chronic conditions that are beyond medical science’s ability to cure. Others lived with stable chronic diseases, but lost the ability to care for themselves (or outstripped their caregivers’ resources) due to acute illness that further decreased their health.
Some new nursing home residents become depressed. Grieving their homes and independence, they lose the will to live and fall into decline. Even so, the primary cause of death is still the underlying illness, not the nursing home per se.
Seniors with memory loss often appear to get worse when they transfer to nursing homes. These seniors functioned at home, relying on environmental cues that had not changed in decades, such as the layout of the house and placement of the furniture. They had encoded this information, schedules and habits in memory back when their brains were healthy. In the nursing home, without these familiar cues, the seniors cannot compensate. It may seem like the condition deteriorated, but most likely, these older adults were just as sick at home.
Another reason families believe nursing homes kill seniors is that caregivers use the nursing home too late. They refuse to consider placement until the senior’s illness is so advanced, or the caregiver is so tired, sick, or injured that there is no way to provide good care at home. In fact, the quality of care may have been slipping for some time. At nursing home admission, the loved ones’ health is poor at best. When they go into the nursing home, they do what their chronic illnesses dictate; they get worse, and they die.

NEXT WEEK How to Make the Decision and Stay in Control


Dr. Cheryl Woodson is a geriatrician, eldercare consultant and author. She is also a family caregiver who walked with her mother on a ten-year journey with Alzheimer’s disease. Visit www.drcherylwoodson.com to schedule a presentation or consultation and to find out about upcoming publications and events.


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