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There are “Nursing Institutions” and there are “Nursing Families”, but all are called “Nursing Homes” these days. Ninety percent of them are really “Nursing Institutions”. The way you can tell is by looking at whose needs are catered to. An institution has The Rules and everything is subordinate to them. Let me give a couple of examples.

Case #1- Fishing: A group of elderly men in one of my therapy groups said they would be happier if they could get out and go fishing. This seemed eminently reasonable, so I approached the Social Services Director with the idea. At first he thought it was great. Then he paused and said, “No, places you fish slope down into the water. If someone fell in, we’d have Hell to pay.” I suggested using a pontoon boat loaded from a level dock. He brightened for a moment, but then got serious again. “No, if a pontoon sprang a leak and the boat sank, we’d have law suites galore.”

Case #2-John: I was asked to do therapy with a gentleman who was “threatening nurses and stealing food off other people’s trays.” When I went to see him, John explained that he’d grown up on a farm, and he’d eaten bacon every day for breakfast. He figured that he was 85 and shouldn’t have lived this long anyway. Even though his doctor said he should have a low cholesterol diet, he said he’d rather enjoy bacon for breakfast than eat the salt-free grits they served him. If he died a few years sooner, "At least I'll die happy."

John said the man across the table didn’t like bacon, but was afraid to get the nursing staff angry. The man said he’d push his tray to the middle of the table and if John took bacon off it, he wasn’t to blame. That alone is a chilling image; a friend is afraid to give you his bacon because of The Rules and its enforcers. This starts sounding like prison. John was caught / Issue 31 - September 2018
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