Respect For Elders

Are America's nursing homes undergoing a much-needed makeover?

| July 26, 2007

Nursing homes are often seen as dreary, sterile, and lonely environments, but a quiet revolution may be taking place inside the industry. According to Beth Baker, writing for Ms. Magazine, a 'new generation' of nursing homes and long-term care facilities are changing 'from an institutional model to one reflecting values of community, independence and empowerment for residents and staff alike.'

Part of the energy behind this shift in philosophy comes from the Pioneer Network, an organization dedicated to transforming America's 'culture of aging.' Charlene Boyd, president of Pioneer Network, told Ms. Magazine that the organization's philosophy is based around 'nurturing the human spirit.' Both residents and aides in the Pioneer Network are encouraged to make their own decisions and set their own schedules, creating an environment that fosters both independence and community.

So far, the Pioneer Network has yielded some encouraging results. In an article adapted from the organization's handbook, Susan Misiorski writes for Nursing Homes Magazine that long-term care facilities operating with the Pioneer Network have reported reduced uses of medication, fewer cases of depression, and stronger bonds with family and friends. Misiorski details the steps necessary to create a cultural shift and 'an atmosphere where the residents and staff are known as individuals.' The program offers financial incentives too, as nursing homes in the Pioneer Network are able to devote less money to recruiting and retaining caregivers, and more money to the patients themselves.

'Nevertheless,' Baker writes, 'these nursing homes remain few and far between.' Of the 17,000 nursing homes in the nation, the Pioneer Network estimates that less than 200 have truly made the transformation thus far. But advocates insist the organization is making progress. Cofounder Rose Marie Fagan is hopeful; as she suggested to Ms. Magazine, 'maybe old age won?t be so dreaded when we create a role for elders in our society -- where we?ll be valued for our wisdom and for what we?ve contributed.'

Go there>> Home, Sweet Nursing Home

Go there, too>> Pioneering Culture Change

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