So You’re Putting Mom/Dad In A Nursing Home: Do’s And Don’ts

I know from personal experience that making the decision to put a loved one in a long term care facility (ie: Nursing Home) is tough. So let me help you with a few things I’ve learned from experience as the aide taking care of the residents. Trust me, I’m a damn good one, and I know from caring for these residents a few things that will hopefully help you and mom or dad.

This is not the place for items of great value. Yes, mother’s beloved wedding band set is precious to her, but seriously consider a simple band. No, the staff isn’t interested in taking it or anything else she has, but if there is any chance it could come off her hand, it could be lost forever. That expensive vase, jewelry in the box, etc, just doesn’t have a good place here. See, some folks may be in early to late stages of dementia. They will wander and sometimes relocate items. They do not know understand what they are doing. We the staff refer to it as “going shopping”, because they truly are not trying to steal it, they see it, and have no ability to reason that it is not their item, heck in their confused mind they may think it is their’s. Oh we do make every effort to get shopped items back to the owners but think it through before you bring items of value into the facility.

When it comes to clothing, please please please put their name in it. Use a sharpie, have special tags sewn in to the items, but make sure you have every stitch of clothing labeled, including socks. Yes, even if you are going to do their laundry and bring it back. See, sometimes in the heat of the moment when cleaning up a ‘code brown’ (a major bowel movement explosion) that is all over your parent, the floor, their clothing could end up tied in a plastic bag and put in the facility laundry. Seriously you might be thankful if it does after the first time you get to rip into such a bag that we stick in mama’s hamper. We want to be sure the clothing gets back to the correct resident! This includes lap blankets, any bedding that is personal, etc. Countless times when doing rounds we find a blanket in the activity room that does not look familiar (or it was shopped from a room and restocked to another) and we don’t have a clue who it belongs too because it lacks a label/name.

Another point about clothing, please understand this is not the time in mama’s life for her to be dressed in the latest fashions, especially if form fitting. Find nice, attractive clothing and think about the fact that she needs assistance dressing. A size larger than needed makes it much easier for us to get her dressed in the morning, and change her clothes if there is a code brown or she gets food on herself. Elderly skin is onion skin thin and a skin tear can happen even when the utmost care is taken, and these are so painful and often don’t heal quickly. Remember too, daddy is declining, that is why you are placing them in our care, so think about the fact that he is going to get food stains on his clothing. We often have shirt savers (adult bibs/dining wear) but even though we try to keep them clean, things do get on clothing. Think comfortable, practical, and affordable. Also, think extra items. Remember, they do sometimes go through clothing like they are toddlers again and we need to have plenty to change them into. We want them clean and looking nice as much as you do.  Also, think warm! Elderly folks are always cold, they cannot regulate their body temperature anymore so believe it or not sweat shirts, sweaters, long sleeves etc, really are year round attire! Shop at end of season clearance sales for these items, because they will wear them all year round!

I’ve seen families get upset over the facility putting mom or dad in a hospital gown rather than their jammies. We check and change them during the night, every 2 to 3 hours. Those jammie sets are cute, but when we have to roll them back and forth extra times to get the pants off before we get to their brief (adult diaper), it is not fun for them at all. The less movement the less they wake up and the better their night of sleep will be. And elderly don’t have the flexibility they used too. Hospital gowns tie in back making it much easier to get on and off. If mama loves those flannel gowns, then maybe consider cutting them up the back and adding ties to them. After all, in her bed, recliner or chair, no one can see her back, but she is warm and it is far easier to get her in and out of her nightgown. Velcro is also a great trick!

Want to get something for them? SOCKS! If they still wear shoes, then consider what is comfy in the shoes, but if not, nice thick socks are the way to go! So few of my residents seem to have enough socks. Oh, and write their name or room number on the bottom of each sock with a sharpie! And for those who do walk, good non-slip footwear!

Those are just a few of the tips I can think of that would help your loved one and the staff to help make this a better experience!


One comment

  1. Marti, hi! I work as a RN in a SNF/LTC, and I totally agree with you on a lot of the suggestions that you gave the families in your post! I’ve already shared it on FB and twitter! Thanks for putting into words that I don’t think that I could have done!

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