If you've recently been admitted to a skilled nursing facility, how do you adjust? Coping with this life change can be difficult, so here are some tips to consider:
- Get Involved
Facilities usually have several opportunities to participate. If you're able, become involved on the resident council, a group that most facilities have that encourages residents to get together to discuss how things are going and how they could be improved. Other opportunities may include groups that ask for feedback on the food services, attending activities that the facility holds, and getting to know those around you.
- Participate in Your Plan of Care
Nursing facilities are required to hold quarterly meetings that review your needs, goals and interventions to help meet those goals. Being an active part of those meetings can help you remain aware of what the staff are trying to help you achieve and why, as well as give you a voice in what those goals are and how they're accomplished.
- Choose Your Perspective
Although you need more care than your family can provide at home, you still can be actively involved in life. I know several individuals who lead very full lives while living at a nursing facility. Make the choice to frame this move as a way to get your needs met so that you can use your energy for more than just getting up and dressed in the morning. Choosing a positive attitude plays a significant role in your ability to cope well with this change.
- Initiate Contact with Your Friends and Family
Unfortunately, some family or friends might not know how to respond to your move to the facility. Take the first step and contact them, asking them if they'd be willing to come for a visit or to take you out for a lunch. Be intentional in reaching out to others. They will appreciate the effort you make in this regard, and you will benefit from the support and friendships that are strengthened.
While that may at first seem at odds with being in a nursing home, there are lots of opportunities for facility residents to connect with others and benefit them. Can you play the piano, write letters, read to someone whose memory is poor, or reassure another resident who is anxious or depressed? Although you're there to receive assistance, you don't have to give up the opportunity to help someone else. Even when you're feeling down, and sometimes especially when you're feeling anxious or depressed, helping someone can often change your focus and remind you of your own strengths and blessings.
Residents who develop and maintain positive relationships with family or friends are significantly less likely to report feelings of loneliness, according to a study published in 2011.
Additionally, research has identified that residents who have a positive attitude about making the adjustment, have good support and interaction with family and friends, have an opportunity to go outside the nursing home periodically, and participate in meaningful activities are the most likely to thrive in nursing home environments.
Don't Give Your Limitations the Victory
You don't have to pretend that you have always dreamed of living in a nursing home. Acknowledging the loss of your home, independence and health is important and shouldn't be shoved aside. However, in that acknowledgment, you have the choice to limit the control those losses have over you. Although your health has forced you to lose your independence in taking care of yourself, make the choice to not let it remove your joy of living or the gift of family and friends.
International Journal of Nursing Studies 43 (2006) 681–691. Thriving in nursing homes in Norway: Contributing aspects described by residents. Accessed April 25, 2012. http://www.journalofnursingstudies.com/article/S0020-7489%2805%2900191-4/abstract
National Citizens’ Coalition for Nursing Home Reform. Family involvement in nursing home care. Accessed April 26, 2012. www.aging.iowa.gov/Documents/Ombudsman/FamInvolvement.pdf