When I visited with my mother in the nursing home I always enjoyed talking with a woman named Susan, who, despite significant physical challenges, always seemed to choose the positive in any given situation. During our meaningful chats, Susan shared wisdom gained from living with limited physical mobility and using a wheelchair. She has the following advice for how to respect those in a nursing home or skilled bed facility.

Create a Calm, Soothing Atmosphere

Susan says, “Music can soothe the soul and bring peace and joy.  There would be less agitation and yelling in nursing homes if each room had peaceful music playing most of the time instead of a blaring TV.” This could be accomplished over a PA system with an on/off switch in each room.  Or families could bring a CD player with a few CDs and request that the aides turn on the music instead of the TV—unless of course, the person wants to watch TV.

Involve Your Loved One in Decision-Making

Allow the person, whenever possible, to make his or her own decisions.  Well-meaning family (and sometimes staff) decide what the person needs without consulting the individual.  For example, when a lovely woman in her nineties complained about being cold, her niece “solved” the problem by moving her aunt to another room.  The aunt was not consulted.  She didn’t like the move, and her previous roommate grieved the loss of her friend.

Respect Your Loved One’s Space and Dignity

Remember that your loved one’s room is their room, not yours.  Susan says, “Please do not come into my small home and tell me that I should take care of the clutter or start organizing or offer to organize my things.  I know where everything is. I can reach what I want from my wheelchair, and I don’t want things moved.” Even if the room seems cluttered to you, allowing the resident some measure of control not only respects their dignity, but keeps them engaged with their surroundings.

Following this wise woman’s advice will help us provide compassionate care for our loved one as well as honoring their dignity. Thank you, Susan, for your wisdom on how to respect those in a nursing home.

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