Rock and Roll All Nite
Colleen Hollestelle, MA, LNHA, Executive Director
I love it loud. Thus, I reported to work in my best homemade Paul Stanley costume. Picture Goodwill’s finest meets an overpriced, 80’s wig from a local costume shop and face paint. I was amped to join my like-dressed coworkers for our debut as the 80’s rock band, KISS. Did deaf ears meet us? Nah—a surprising majority of our elders recognized us. The rest? They were amused by the effort put toward livening up the joint with leather and rhinestones. Here’s the cool thing: regardless of knowing KISS (or nah), no man, woman, or child could resist smiling our way.
Mission: Accomplished. This is not just another Halloween. This is a revolution. A revolution to change nursing homes and society’s perception of them…what they’re like…who works there….the quality of life of those who call it home. Thus, our maiden blog addresses many nursing home myths and enlightens readers to the joy and excitement of living and working in long-term care.
Myth 1: My Backyard Urban Farm Smells Better than Your Nursing Home
Avon’s hottest fragrance debuted this year was not “Sunset Villas No. 1.” But it could be. Ventilation systems, hygiene supplies, adaptive equipment, and general care standards have improved drastically since the dawn of nursing homes. Decades ago, there was a regulation requiring the paper of each resident be changed daily. Not the paper they’d read…THE NEWS PAPER ON THEIR MATTRESSES TO ABSORB BODILY FLUIDS. To this day, “the stank” is synonymous with nursing home. Here’s the truth: many older adults do have significant health changes that lead to loss of bowel or bladder control. In our most dignified way, we provide assistance to help them manage their daily life in spite of that change. Occasionally, you’ll notice an odor from a room. Pro tip: it’s in the same family of odors you’d notice in your own home. It’s natural. If there is ever an amber fog or you experience whiplash from a strong odor walking into a building, run for your life. Some smell all the time, but all smell sometimes. Know the difference.
Myth 2: Nursing Homes Are Where You Go at “The End”
Life used to end suddenly from a major accident or infectious disease. Those who experienced a decline warranting support of a nursing home didn’t live very long in that environment; the stay was pretty much over when it began. In our contemporary society, many people do experience a chapter of life with some functional decline and need for assistance with daily living. The keyword is chapter of LIFE. Life doesn’t stop the day you enter a nursing home. It’s first day of a new adventure. It’s new experiences, relationships, opportunities for interests…like a sequel to an already awesome movie. The sequel need not disappoint.
Myth 3: Residents of Nursing Homes are Half-Asleep and Drooling on Themselves
Actually, older adults maintain a former passion or interest, in addition to discovering and cultivating a new one. Common interests include Tai Chi, Art, inter-generational activities, visiting parks, dog-sitting, music, volunteerism, games, trivia, and educational programs. Basic human experiences such as joy, laughter, and love know no age. I’ll say it again. Basic human experiences such as joy, laughter, and love know no age. They do not fade with hair color or dissolve into wrinkles. A life with a purpose is a basic right that can be met regardless of place of residence. Find the place that offers that.
Myth 4: The Staff Might Be Qualified to Park Cars, but Not Much Else:
Geriatrics is one of the most rewarding specializations for healthcare workers. Serving in this arena means a daily life lesson and a career with a purpose. However, it’s no shock that the specter of incompetency haunts us. Have you reviewed the guidelines for the standards of professionals practicing in long-term care? In the state of Missouri, to apply to be a Licensed Nursing Home Administrator, a college education is not a prerequisite. A basic-four year degree is not necessary to oversee the medical care for 100+ frail older adults, ensure competency of their caregivers, and maintain policies, budgets, care practices, and all the other important underpinnings of quality systems-based healthcare. Unfortunately, the stigma remains that those passionate about geriatrics are labeled second-rate professionals. Like other industries, there are differences in education, experience, and passion at different homes. While the regulatory expectations for geriatric staff are low, quality homes have high-expectations for education, experience, and creativity of leadership staff. Likewise, this trickles down to hosting a broad range of staff who are competent, warm, and passionate about making a great life for older adults. You’ll know when you walk down the hall.
Are you likely to bump into KISS at every nursing home? Nah. But there are some in which you will. And maybe they’ll show at your mom’s door and say, “Let’s play one she knows…” and belt “You are my sunshine,” with laughter ensuing. Admittedly, we don’t have the talent to be the next KISS cover band, but we see the world as our stage. Now that we have your attention, we’re on a mission to change what you know about nursing homes and all the mystery behind our walls. You say you want to go for a spin…the party’s just begun, we’ll let you in.