How to Help Older Patients Embrace Life in a Nursing Home


Article Categories: Environment & CNA Skills



One of the most heartbreaking scenarios to witness in a nursing home is an older patient who is adjusting poorly to their new living arrangement. The struggle is real. Many new residents openly speak about their discomfort receiving long-term care in a nursing home. The stress is quite understandable as the patients need to adjust to many changes in the way they live.

Older patients resent nursing home life because they hate being away from their loved ones. They had to leave their comfort zone, too, which is their home.

Some patients also adjust poorly because they may not be used to smaller living spaces where they have to share a room with several others. They view the loss of personal space and privacy as a huge problem. They have limited choices in personalizing their spaces.

Long-term care homes have imposed restrictions and rules to obey. These facilities have a schedule to follow and residents may not be allowed to do something out of routine.

Another difficulty they face is poor treatment by staff and fellow residents. According to the Nursing Home Abuse Center, about 1 in 4 nursing home patients (24.3%) have experienced physical abuse at least once. In 2014 alone, there were about 14,000 allegations of abuse or neglect filed with nursing home ombudsmen.

But older patients have to transition to nursing facilities because of their progressively worsening functional decline. Their complex health needs require supervision or regular treatments. In short, their stay is a must. And this is where the role of a nursing assistant comes into full play.

CNAs are the lifeblood of any nursing home. They perform most of the bedside care procedures and assist patients with activities of daily living. As a nursing assistant, you are in the right place and have the perfect job to make a difference in helping patients adjust to nursing home life.

Here are some of the things that you can do:

1. Foster independence.

Protect their sense of control. One thing that you can do is to provide choices wherever possible. Ensure that new residents have the essentials they need to move safely and independently, such as eyeglasses, hearing aids, and walkers.

2. Ask residents how you can help to make them more comfortable.

Would they like a fluffier pillow? A thicker blanket maybe? Will they be able to sleep better if they are on their side? Patients tend to voice out what they want.

If residents are not vocal about it, ask more specific questions, such as, "Is the bathwater warm enough for you?" "Would you like your tea with milk or sugar?" Most importantly, attend to their needs as soon as you can.

3. Give patients a room with a view.

If there is a way for maladjusted residents to get a room with a window, the better it is for them. The scenery does not have to be a majestic landscape as long as there is something to see outside. Having a view expands their world and can add to the relaxation.

4. Be polite and uphold their dignity.

Residents need to feel that they are human beings still capable of feeling. They want to be respected and not regarded as merely a daunting responsibility. Protect their privacy and personal space by asking permission before entering the room or starting a procedure.

5. Let them meet other residents with similar interests.

Meeting new people and living with them in the same facility is not exactly easy. A good workaround to this challenge is introducing them to people who have the same culture or hobbies as them, some common ground to start with.

6. Ask for the resident’s feedback.

Relay their message to the healthcare team. It's a way for them to have more say in their own care.

7. Help the resident connect with their loved ones.

Even if residents are with other people, they may still feel isolated because they are not with those they love. Help them use gadgets for communication, such as chats and video calls. Ask if they want a picture of their family by the bedside.

8. Hold meaningful conversations.

Ask how they are feeling. Listen to their stories. Even if you don't have enough time on your hands to spare, you can engage the resident in a conversation while performing a procedure. Give cues that you listened to them. For example, if they mentioned their daughter, Claire, the last time, ask how Claire is doing on your next shift.

9. Explain the rules by highlighting the benefits rather than the limitations.

Nursing homes have policies that may be viewed as restrictive by new residents. As a CNA, you can make them comply easier by telling them how the rules help them in the long run.

In 2016, there are about 1.7 million licensed nursing home beds in the US, and with the rising number of baby boomers, this number will increase further in the coming years. CNAs like you can do so much to make this important milestone in a patient's life more manageable and a worthwhile experience.

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