Of cruises and nursing homes

As someone early in the second half of my first century I, like many in my situation, have had conversations with my mom about how she wants to live out her life as she gets older. We (my wife and I) have had similar conversations with her parents. There are no easy answers, because you never really know what’s going to happen until it happens, but you do need to plan.

Earlier today my mom shared this video on Facebook. (A hint, maybe?)


Now I don’t know if the numbers in the video are accurate, and to a certain extent it doesn’t matter. What matters is the point that the video is making, that we can do better by our parents and grandparents than warehousing them in “homes” that are more hospital than home.

I wrote about this over ten years ago after hearing an interview with the makers of the film Almost Home. Here’s what I had to say about it then.

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On the other end of the age spectrum, adult children often must make care decisions for their aging parents. Many times this results in these elderly parents living out their final days in a nursing home, with every aspect of their lives controlled by the administrators of the home. Again, not a decision to be made lightly. (I think we’ve all heard the horror stories.)

The film Almost Home, recently aired on PBS, talks about a different kind of way to run a nursing home.

ALMOST HOME offers an inside look at the lives of these residents, their families and those who care for them as each adjusts to the challenges of growing older. ALMOST HOME filmmakers Brad Lichtenstein and Lisa Gildehaus introduce couples bonded and divided by disability, children torn between caring for their dependent parents and their own families, nursing assistants doing difficult work for near-poverty wages and visionary nursing home director John George, who is committed to transforming his century-old hospital-like institution into a true home.

Under George’s leadership, Saint John’s On The Lake is reinventing its 135-year-old medical model of care (think hospital) with a social one (think home). His goal is to transform the way people see nursing homes—not as institutions of boredom and despair but as vibrant communities where residents live rich and fulfilling lives. To succeed, he will have to win over skeptical managers, resistant nurses, overworked and underpaid nursing assistants, complacent residents and often-overwhelmed family members.

The key change in my mind is that the residents here retain as much control as possible of their own lives. They can wake up when they want to, instead of the usual scheduled wake-ups. Meals are tailored as much as possible to what the residents desire, not a typical bland hospital menu. (If someone has lived a good 90 years, and wants some bacon for breakfast, they should be able to get bacon for breakfast!) They have a cocktail hour every Monday where *gasp* they can drink cocktails.

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Basically, a human centered approach.

I’d like to think that a lot has happened in the ten years since. Time to do some more reading and research.