As an agency nurse, I’ve spent a lot of time in various nursing facilities. I’ve seen many people struggle with the transition of leaving their homes to come to a nursing home. The area that seems to cause the most distress during this transitional phase is knowing what to do with personal belongings.
Here are some tips should you or someone you know decide to move into a nursing home. They cover little details that often come as a surprise when transitioning into long term care.
1. LABELS–everything you bring into a nursing home must be labelled with your first and last name in permanent ink. This include every single sock, shirt, belt, robe, tube of lip balm, purse, wallet, bottle of shampoo etc. It is also a good idea to have a dentist label your dentures and for you to label eye glasses and hearing aides if you have them.
As rotten as it is, some people steal. Having your items marked greatly enhances your ability to identify your belongings should another resident decide to raid your room and take them. Also, many residents may be confused and think things are their own, your name will help them to see differently. Clothing and blankets often get sent to laundry even when your family usually does yours, this helps identify yours and get it back to the right person.
2. VALUABLES–leave them behind or give them to your children or whomever you intend to have them after you are gone. Keep minimal amounts of cash on hand ($5-10 is more than enough as a general rule). Any more than that should be in a clearly labelled envelope kept in the front office for arising needs. With the exception of jewellery that you wear constantly, it is best not to bring valuable jewelry with you. Again, some people steal. Institutions have many people in and out in a day, staff, visitors and other residents with all kinds of back grounds and differing value systems, unfortunately, not all of them are honest.
3. ELECTRONICS–in most homes you can bring a television or radio without much problem. Most will allow you to have an electric razor or blow dryer, many will make you leave these locked up having to check them out as needed. Personal lamps, fans, electric wheel chairs and other electrical items have to be checked out for fire hazards and approved of to have in your room.
4. HABITS-Cigarette smoking is greatly frowned upon and not allowable in many facilities these days. In the homes that allow smoking most have a designated area and many have only certain hours that you are allowed to smoke. Very few of them allow you to keep your own smoking materials with you. Most require them to be stored with the nurses, often with smoking only under direct supervision and as staff is available to provide that supervision. If you smoke, please remember to ask ahead of time what the smoking policies are for the home you are considering. They vary greatly from place to place.
Alcoholic beverages must have a doctor’s order to be consumed and rarely does a doctor allow more than one or two of these beverages a day if at all. This is also kept under lock and key and well documented each time you consume one. The doctor will consider your medications and if contraindicated with any of them the doctor will not approve them.
Marijuana or illicit drug use will find you facing legal charges. The items relating to them will be confiscated and the police and state authorities will be called and charges pressed. In some cases this will also lead to eviction.
5. BATHING–baths and showers are supervised even on people not requiring assistance in most facilities, primarily due to state and federal regulations and to prevent law suits should falls and injuries occur. Most places plan 2 days a week as designated “shower days” for each resident. When staffing is short these baths may get skipped and may not get picked up on another day depending on staffing availability. Rarely are baths given “on demand”. Leg and armpit shaving may not get done if you aren’t able to do it and luxurious bathing is out of the question as bath scheduling allows barely enough time to get in, get it done and get out in most instances.
6. MEDICATIONS–bring no medications from home, they will be taken and sent back with family or disposed of, this includes aspirin, cough drops, cough syrup, acetaminophen, inhalers, ibuprofen, laxatives, ointments, mentholated rubs, heartburn medications, prescriptions etc. All of these items must have a doctor’s order and have a pharmacy label on them and be kept on the medication cart. A few homes still allow for “May keep at bedside” orders which allow an individual to keep some of their medications themselves. If you wish to have any of these items, bring a list of what you want with you and have your admitting nurse get orders from your doctor. Your nurse will then order them from the pharmacy. Items that your insurance does not cover will be charged to you and until those items are paid for more will not be sent.
7. HYGIENE and PERSONAL CARE ITEMS–While many of these things are available from the nursing home, they are quite costly compared to items brought from home. Consider budgeting these things and having someone bring them to you or shop for them yourself…Nail clippers, incontinent care items (adult diapers, pads etc), toothbrushes and paste, denture care items, hair care products, soaps and shampoos (most nursing homes provide an all in one product for free), deodorants, perfumes, skid proof socks, house slippers, razors (especially if you do not like cheap generics), powders and lotions. I also recommend a back scratcher and fly swatter… Bed side commodes, canes, wheel chairs and walkers also cost extra if you don’t provide your own.
8. ELECTRIC WHEEL CHAIRS–in most homes you will have to pass a safety “driving test” to be eligible to use one. You will be responsible for it’s upkeep and ordering replacements and will likely have to give it up should you bump into people or things with it.
This is a partial list, but these are all things that are best considered before you have to deal with them. Being prepared and knowing what to expect helps make the transition much easier should the need for long term care present itself.