Myths & Realities of Nursing Homes

Myth: A nursing home is like a hospital.
Reality: A nursing home is not a hospital. It is a home - with nursing care available as needed, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. A skilled nursing community also has different goals than a hospital, for example:

Rehabilitating the resident to maximum potential and, if possible, returning the individual to their home or to independent or assisted living facilities.

  • Delaying physical and emotional deterioration.
  • Maintaining maximum rehabilitation as long as possible within the realities of age and disease.
  • Supporting the resident and family, physically and emotionally, throughout the resident’s stay.

Myth: All nursing home residents are confused.
Reality: Most people slow down physically as they age. For some, this is also true of their mental processes. Many people enter a nursing home because they are considered too forgetful to manage their own care. Often, however, this condition can be reversed with adequate nutrition, exercise, social stimulation, and properly controlled medication. It is realistic to expect a full range of capabilities and personalities among residents in nursing homes – from completely lucid minds in fragile or handicapped bodies to healthy bodies with minds that are no longer functioning normally. In The Neighborhoods of Gardenview, individualized care plans are put in place to address the needs of each resident.

Myth: There is no privacy in a nursing home.
Reality: Because so many nursing home residents need constant supervision, nursing homes are designed so that staff can be aware of residents' whereabouts at all times. However, each resident has the right to privacy. Staff, family members, and visitors are encouraged to observe the common courtesy of knocking before entering a resident's room. The nursing staff is trained to respect the individual resident's modesty and prevent unnecessary exposure when providing personal care.

Myth: Once you go in, you never get out.
Reality: The primary goal of a nursing home is to rehabilitate the resident so that he or she can return to their home or to an independent or assisted living facility. Those who cannot return to the community are afforded the opportunity to visit family and friends outside of the nursing home for short periods of time, health permitting.

Myth:  I will not be able to make my own decisions.
Reality:  Maximize independence is encouraged and all possible efforts are made to honor a resident’s preferences.  Residents have a legal right to make choices about activities, schedules, health care and other aspects of their life.  However, it is important to recognize that the facility must ensure an environment where people can live together safely and harmoniously.  Whatever an individual’s physical condition, the over-riding objective for the facility is to respect an individual’s rights and wishes and provide a supportive, safe environment.

 At Minnesota Valley Health Center, Resident Councils provide an opportunity for patients to become actively involved in addressing their concerns to staff and to one another.   

Myth: Nursing homes have an unpleasant odor.
Reality: At times unpleasant odors may be noticeable - this is true in private homes, as well. Some residents may not have control of bowel and bladder functions. Many times residents are offered retraining programs to correct this problem. For others, proper attention to bathing and changes of clothing eliminate odors. Today’s advanced cleaning methods and new materials provide considerable reduction in odors.

Some married couples enter nursing homes together and share a room. The patient's bill of rights mandates that this be permitted in Medicaid and Medicare institutions.

Myth: Families and friends abandon nursing home residents.
Reality: When an elderly person needs more physical care than his family can give, and he or she is admitted to a nursing home, the professionally trained staff takes over a portion of the care. However, the continued social and psychological support of family and friends is essential to the resident's well-being. Many families visit daily. Most nursing homes have liberal visiting hours and are willing to extend those hours in special circumstances. In The Neighborhoods of Gardenview,  visitors are welcome so that relationships between residents and their family and friends continue as they were before the nursing home placement.

Myth: The food is terrible in nursing homes.
Reality: Food that is well-prepared and attractively served is the standard for any nursing home. Today’s nursing homes have dieticians and nutritionists on staff who ensure that resident’s meals are appetizing, appealing and meet their nutritional needs. At The Neighborhoods of Gardenview we have an Open Dining program which allows residents to order meals off a menu and dine at the time of their choosing. This gives residents more choice in their day-to-day lives.

Myth: I should be able to bring my own bed into the nursing home.
Reality: Most nursing homes do not allow residents to use their own beds. There are two reasons for this. First, almost all nursing homes have hospital-type beds in all rooms. These beds can be raised or lowered to help the resident get in or out of bed. The head or foot position of the bed can be raised or lowered. This makes providing care easier for both resident and staff. Second, nursing homes must satisfy safety and health regulations that allow only certain kinds of beds in a nursing home. Home mattresses seldom are fireproof, and it is not uncommon to find that the hygienic standards required by law have not been met with home maintenance techniques.

Myth: I'll be given medications that will cause me to lose control of my thoughts and actions.
 Every person has the right to know what medications he or she is taking and has the right to refuse any or all of these. Tranquilizers, pain-relieving medications and sleeping pills are all powerful drugs and do have a profound effect on how alert one remains. Properly prescribed, these medications help rather than harm individuals. Staff, residents, and family all have a responsibility to ask for a review of prescriptions by their physician or a pharmacist if they suspect medications are being used improperly.

Myth: I'll be physically restrained in the nursing home.
Reality: Restraints (cloth bindings on chairs or beds) may be used in nursing homes only under two conditions:  1. When an individual is confused and unable to comprehend or remember that by moving about he may harm himself or someone else. 2. When a person is unable to maintain his position because of a severe physical handicap such as paralysis. Restraints are used only for a resident's own safety; they are never to be used without a physician's order and then only for the span of time absolutely necessary. People in restraints are checked often and the restraint is repositioned and the patient is moved.

Myth:  Medicare or my health insurance will pay for a lengthy stay in a nursing facility.
Reality:  Consumers should be aware that the government provides little financial assistance for nursing facility care unless a person is impoverished and qualifies for Medicaid. Medicare assists about 1% of the people admitted to nursing homes, but seldom covers more than a few days' stay.  Because so many people mistakenly believe that Medicare or health insurance will cover their long-term care costs, they are forced to spend their savings to cover the cost of care.

 Nursing home care is expensive and entering a nursing home should be approached with as much thought and preparation as any major life change or any major expense. You should meet the administrator and discuss thoroughly the base price and any extra expenses you can expect to incur. Obtain in writing what your basic charge will be and understand clearly all financial arrangements before signing a contract.

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