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Nursing Homes Overview

        Health | Elder Care

Nursing Home Culture Change
Eden Alternative homes provide animals for companionship.
Eden Alternative homes provide animals for companionship.
© iStockphoto.com/iofoto

Many of us believe that nursing homes are cold, institutional places. Often, sadly, this stereotype has proved to be true. But currently, many are working at instituting a shift in how nursing homes operate. This movement is called culture change, and it involves rethinking how people are cared for in a nursing home.

­Spearheaded by the Pioneer Network, culture change involves some concepts that seem fairly simple in concept. Rather than running a nursing home according to a task-based schedule, which may involve one worker going up and down the halls to administer baths or change sheets, nursing homes would operate according to an individualized approach. This approach puts the patient's needs front and center, allowing for the highest possible quality of life. Staff members would have more one-on-one time with a smaller group of patients, allowing them to know when a resident wants a bath, as opposed to just giving a bath at a certain time.

Just as care becomes more individual and less regimented, so too should the facility look less like an institution and more like a home. This might involve changes in layout and appearance. One notable example of this approach is the Eden Alternative. There are several hundred homes across the country that have been "Eden-ized," meaning they are full of plants, animals and children. Rather than surrounding the elderly with surroundings that remind them of the end of life, they are surrounded by life, and preliminary studies of the method show that residents and their families are happier.

However, as you might imagine, changing the look and feel of nursing homes doesn't come cheap, and since many people are already worried about how they'll afford a nursing home now, there's no telling how long it will take to fully implement these ideas.

For more on nursing homes and other forms of long term care, see the links on the next page.


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