Nursing Home Experience

Posted February 26, 2018


In 2014 after Nana’s high-risk bowel obstruction surgery, it was evident that it was in Nana’s best interest to transition to a nursing home, due to the rapid progression of her condition. The nursing home would provide her with the professional 24-hour care she needed. Since then, Nana has been a resident at two different centers.

Nana’s first nursing home offered a wide range of clinical services, including long-term and short-term care. She was initially placed there for her 3-week rehabilitation after surgery, and then remained in the center. Although the center’s variety of services sounds very appealing; it prevents successful care. The staff was not appropriately trained on how to treat patients by their individual needs.

Through my observations, I noticed that staff members were especially under skilled in treating patients with cognitive conditions. I saw many staff turnovers during my Nana’s stay, making it more difficult for patients to feel comfortable with their provided care and for the staff to know their patients on a personal level. Many patients were neglected by staff and constantly bored, having no one to engage with. Also, staff were very unsuccessful at feeding their patients. It is extremely important for patients to get the right nutrition; however, if a patient initially refused their food or he or she was eating too slowly, the staff move on and takes their food away. Impatient staff members have treated Nana in the same manor many times. The staff kept reporting to Mom that she was not eating and she needed to be relocated to the hospital. Yet, they never spent an appropriate time with Nana to make sure she was eating enough, instead they deemed Nana a ‘lost cause’. Mom knew Nana was not sick enough to move to the hospital, which is why went to visit Nana around dinner time every day, to make sure she was eating.

The atmosphere of the center was also very depressing and unhappy. No one really smiled or stopped to have a conversation; I always felt so depressed and sad after visiting. My whole family felt the same way, and could see that Nana’s health was declining being there. It took a while to find another place for Nana to go, as it is a difficult process to go through with insurance and health care. However, after searching for many months, we came across a privately funded center called Hearthstone Alzheimer Care.

At Hearthstone, their mission is to “provide care and activity programs designed uniquely for persons living with all forms and stages of cognitive challenges”. Their “I’m Still Here” methodology, the belief that a person living with dementia is ‘still here’ and can experience a high quality of life made Hearthstone the perfect center for Nana. Hearthstone focuses on reducing patients’ apathy, aggression, anxiety and agitation, the four most common signs of dementia. They recognize that patients with cognitive conditions may not be able to express their needs regarding their health, so they stress that their highly trained staff are able to notice “the slightest discomfort or change in function of each resident”.

I want to focus on the importance of the word each, because this simple word is what makes Hearthstone so effective. The staff knows the patient personally. They listen to their stories and ask questions to learn about their family, what they like or dislike, and what they are skilled at or struggle with. The staff knows how to treat Nana in a way that makes her feel worthy and needed. In fact, if you go into Hearthstone and ask any staff member how Nana is, they can give you a detailed description of what she has done thus far, her general mood and attitude with care, what medicine she has taken and really anything else you want to know. They truly care about their patients.

At Hearthstone Nana has the ability to help and participate in a multitude of programs such as music group, serving dinner, leading discussion or book group or even teaching other people skills. The atmosphere of Hearthstone is very upbeat and happy. Patients and staff are friendly and you can tell that they are genuinely enjoying their time.

Even though Nana has only been a resident of Hearthstone for six months, both my family and the staff have noticed tremendous improvements. Nana is eating again, and eating a lot to be more accurate. She has much more energy and looks very healthy. She understands more and can have a conversation for hours. Most surprisingly she is able to and wanting to walk again. Before Hearthstone she spent most of her time isolated in her bed. However, at Hearthstone they always have her doing something active and surrounded by people. Consequently, Nana has had two, very minor, falls because she has had the strength during nap time to get out of bed and walk until she is tired. The staff has adjusted to her new tendency and have prevented any more falls or getting out of bed without assistance.

In my opinion Nana is healthier now than she has been in the past 5 years and I believe the biggest factor in this amazing transformation is Hearthstone. The care they provide is so specific to her needs and when given the right care, people with cognitive conditions can still strive and live a long healthy life.