Nursing homes are temporary housing for people (typically elderly) who need therapy or rehabilitation services for the majority of the day. People who shattered a hip or suffered a stroke are two of the most common residents as they must relearn to walk or talk. It’s not easy and many people fear them for that reason alone.
When an elderly citizen hears that he needs to move into a nursing home, his imagination goes to dark places… but this is why nursing homes are so important for our elders, they help ward off the darkness. Here are 5 things that nursing homes help elders overcome.
1. The Dreaded Self-Defeating Talk
“I can’t” is a poison. Telling yourself you can’t walk again; you won’t be able to dance again; you cannot do this or that is losing a battle before you ever try.
For elders who wind up in nursing homes due to a broken bone, those early weeks of therapy are critical. They’re the foundation for which your bones will regrow. If you’re too easy on yourself, walking may never come easily again. If you’re too hard on yourself, walking may be impossible. With those two extremes on either side of you, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking it’s impossible.
Fortunately this is what skilled nursing and physical therapists are for. They understand the limitations, they’ve worked with hundreds (if not thousands) of people in the same position. They understand what your mind is telling you and they help you overcome it.
2. Comparing Yourself to Others
With the internet and social media, it’s easy to view friends’ and family’s lives and grow envious and fill yourself with even more self-doubt. You look at others (and read about others) and think, they’ve done so much, what have I done?
When you need a nursing home, it’s easy to fall into that mentality. It can even be hard when other people with “similar” fractures come and go faster than you, but again, skilled nurses prevent that kind of thought from dominating your mind. Everyone is different.
Some people set out to build multi-national companies and others want to teach students. To conquer any obstacle – and especially your condition – you need only to be better than yourself. Nurses help you do that by measuring your triumphs against your past. You, no one else’s.
3. Dwelling on the Past
You don’t even need to be in a nursing home for this to be something you do. Many people dwell on the past. They treat their past self as a glorified self. This is similar to the comparing yourself to others except you’re comparing yourself to your past self! This can be equally as poisonous because if you’re 70 and have broken a bone, then of course your 16 year old self wouldn’t sweat it, but you can’t dwell on what was, you need to focus on what is.
A 16 year old would also celebrate passing a driver license test, a 16 year old may celebrate getting a job at Costco. The values change. For a 16yo, healing after a broken bone is not a triumph, but for you it is, so celebrate.
4. Fear of Failing
This happens all too often. The first 3 are all problems you face before you start the hard work of recovering, but this one happens in the midst of your progress. If you’re making stellar headway for the first 2 months, but suddenly find yourself struggling, it’s easy to get discouraged and once you’re discouraged, it’s easy to fall back into all that self-defeating-dwelling-on-the-past-comparing-yourself-with-others talk.
What the staff of skilled nursing homes do is fill you with confidence. A bad day, doesn’t make a bad recovery. Your body is repairing what is broken, which can leave you more susceptible to something like a cold. When that happens, you need to know when to take it easy. Recovery is a multi-tiered process. Luckily, there’s a support system that can help you rise above it.
5. Forgiving Yourself
This one is last because it can happen at any point during this process. One of the biggest obstacles to overcome is forgiving yourself.
It’s easy to blame a broken bone on your own carelessness. It’s easy to even make a full recovery and think, “How could I have let that happen?” but accidents happen. Being in a nursing home may make you miss some important events, but imagine that this experience will help you overcome future obstacles or even help other people overcome theirs.
There’s a philosopher you may be familiar with called Niccolo Machiavelli (most known for The Prince). One of the things he understood about human nature was the value of white lies. He used the example of a military general giving a rousing speech to his troop before a battle. The general doesn’t tell them, “A lot of us will fall, victory is uncertain, we don’t know that this will impact the overall war,” instead he fills them with confidence, “This is the battle to end all losses; what we do here will be remembered in the history books to come.” Whether it’s true or not doesn’t matter in the moment. What it provides is enough confidence for the soldiers to march.
Many nursing homes operate under the same pretense. For people who break their hip, there’s a heightened chance of dying within 1 year after surgery, but you do not need to know that. Similarly, cancer patients are encouraged to seek out meditation and therapy. Stress causes the body to crumble; it feeds cancer – and that’s not a metaphor. Happy thoughts lead to healthy lives. A healthy body can ward off cancer better than a broken one.
So when you need a nursing homes, remember that you’re not simply recovering, you’re conquering negative thoughts and bad habits. You’re achieving and doing better than yourself.