I’m not sure if you listen to John Tesh on the radio or even know who is but I’ve noticed that he provides a lot of infomation on aging parents and caregiving lately.  I wonder if that’s because he’s in a similar position with his own parents or because he just “gets” that much of his advertising dollars may come from the segment that services this population.  Certainly, he’s got MY attention.

Last week, on his segment “Intelligence for Your Life”, John spoke of  a new phenomenon: an increasing number of young people are being cared for in nursing homes.  By young people, I mean those in their 20s and early 30s, their admission being necessated by paralysis from an accident or from other degenerative diseases, such as multiple schlerosis or perhaps a stroke.

Many times, their families are unable to care for them because they lack the physical strength necessary to aid in their care or the parents may still have full-time jobs.

Some of these young patients are there because nursing homes are less expensive than rehab facilities.  Others are there because of budget cuts in our health system and it is their only option.

1 out of every 7 nursing home residents is under the age of 65 .  In fact, during the last 3 days of my father’s life, he was a resident in a skilled nursing facility while we were attempting to set up hospice care at home.  His room mate was about 24.  He was a paraplegic, was very large and did little but lie in bed, attend 2 physical therapy sessions per day and watch television.  I can’t imagine a life like that.

The young ones don’t fit in.  They don’t like creamed spinach or Bingo (then again, perhaps the elder residents don’t like them either).  They’re fearful of patients with dementia and of those that are clearly at the end of their life.  They notice when residents die.  It is isolating and thoroughly depressing for them to imagine spending the rest of their lives there.

It will be interesting to see what kinds of changes the facilities will begin to implement in order to serve these young residents.  According to John Tesh, some nursing homes are  developing job training programs and instituting pizza party nights.

According to Associated Press writer, Matt Sedensky, “Instead of bingo night, there are poker games and outings to nightclubs. For someone who stays up late watching a movie, breakfast can be served at 10 a.m., rather than 7 a.m. Pizza is offered in place of lasagna; Mountain Dew and Coke are poured instead of coffee and tea.”

I wonder if instituting activities for “the youngsters” will utimately generate a sense of hope and be beneficial to the “the oldsters”.   Or will they simply develop nursing homes for the young?  I think that would be a shame.


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