Live a Good Life in a Nursing Home
One nursing home resident dictates a first-person account to her loved ones about her decision to enter a nursing home and how she’s navigated “living a good life” there.
“Making Myself at Home in a Nursing Home” by Sandra Gaffney is a first-person guide for people contemplating entering a nursing home. Sandra describes how she chose the right one and how to communicate with staff and family about “how to help others help me” in order to still “live a good life.”
Cover Courtesy Vanderbilt University Press
Making Myself at Home in a Nursing Home (Vanderbilt University Press, 2012) by Sandra Gaffney is the personal account of the author’s long-term care in a nursing home after being diagnosed with Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Over 16 years, Sandra lived in nursing homes in Florida, Virginia and Minnesota. During this time she became an acute observer and strategist about how to “live a good life” and navigate day-to-day issues such as how to furnish the room, talk to staff and understand nursing home culture. The following excerpt is taken from Chapter 1, “About Myself.”
My name is Sandra. In 1994, at the age of fifty, I entered my first nursing home for long-term care. While it was difficult to give up living in my own home, as time passed I developed strategies for leading a meaningful life in the nursing home setting. It occurred to me that others might benefit from my experiences and observations. Also, writing this book has provided me with a mental challenge and an opportunity to feel productive. When I first started thinking about the book, both my mother and my longtime friend Ellen encouraged me and helped me to develop a list of topics to write about.
My primary focus is to assist future and present nursing home residents to lead the fullest lives possible while living in a nursing home. Hopefully, as residents and family members read about my strategies and ideas, they will be prompted to develop their own strategies. My secondary focus is to offer a resident’s perspective to present and potential nursing home professionals and policy makers.
My interest in writing this book comes from my educational and professional background. I have master’s and specialist degrees in college counseling. I had many experiences that influenced how I viewed nursing home life and contributed to my ability to write this book. I worked for thirteen years at a community college. During twelve of them, I did general counseling. One of my special responsibilities was advising international students. That experience has helped me to better relate to the multicultural staff in my three nursing homes. I coordinated the writing of a student handbook, as well as wrote many other counseling-related materials. The last year that I worked, I was the director of the Career Clinic, a program for adults wishing to change careers. Writing about my nursing home experiences and observations is a natural continuation of my professional activities. I hope that the reason my book appeals to readers is because the writer is someone who experiences nursing home living rather than someone who just observes the experiences of others.
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