The people who are most often placed in a nursing home are those who are of a certain age (over 65, but the majority of patients are over 85). For this reason, being older is almost always associated with needing to go into a nursing home. While this is true, old age isn’t just a reason to be placed in a nursing home. In fact, there are several older people who age in place (remain in their own homes) successfully.
However, there are specific reasons why someone is placed in a nursing home— and not all of them necessarily mean you’re over the age of 65. Here are the three main reasons why people are placed in nursing homes.
#1: Physical Ailment
The most common reason that people— elderly individuals especially— are placed into a nursing home is because they have a physical ailment that prevents them from doing certain (or all) activities of daily living, or ADLs. It’s no secret that for the majority of people, mobility becomes more limited the older we get, and with people living longer this creates a greater population of those with limited mobility.
Osteoporosis is a common age-related medical condition (onset is usually after age 55) that can negatively affect mobility as we age. It’s also known as “brittle bone disease” because the bones become weak and brittle due to decreased bone mass and density. We reach our peak bone density around age 30, so after that it is hard to retain and rebuild bone. Osteoporosis can result in conditions as minor as bad posture, to more serious conditions like height loss and broken bones.
Osteoarthritis is similar to osteoporosis, except that it affects the joints instead of the bones. Our joints contain cartilage to keep them flexible, but osteoarthritis causes this cartilage to wear down. This results in both joint pain and stiffness in the neck, hands, lower back, hips, and/or knees— which then results in a limited range of motion and mobility.
Both of these ailments make it harder to perform some ADLs, so elders with these conditions are often placed in a nursing home.
#2: Mental/Psychological Ailment
Mental conditions are another common reason people are placed in nursing homes. In fact, people who are not considered “elderly” but have a mentally disability that requires round-the-clock care are also placed in nursing homes. However, it’s much more common for older adults with mental ailments such as dementia to be placed in nursing homes. The most common types of dementia include:
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Huntington’s disease
- Parkinson’s disease
- Vascular dementia
Some of these types of dementia can also result in physical impairments, so those suffering from the disease will need round-the-clock care. Still, even those with great mobility but mental impairment require specialized treatment and care, which can be given to them in a nursing home.
#3: Recovering from an Illness
Not all nursing home stays are permanent. Some people may stay in a nursing home after they’ve been released from the hospital to recover. After the recovery period, they go back to their own homes. However, this isn’t the case for the majority of nursing home residents/patients.
Alternatives to Nursing Homes
Overall, nursing homes are best suited for those who have serious illnesses that limit their ability to perform ADLs and need specialized care and supervision around the clock. Unfortunately, not all nursing homes are quality and provide this much-needed care— many are abusive towards their patients and create more problems for these individuals and their families. With that being said, it’s important to find quality nursing homes for these individuals with serious health issues.
As for those who don’t need constant care, but still may not be able to live alone, there are other options. One is an assisted living facility, which is similar to a nursing home, but it’s less of a clinical setting and has more of a home feel. The other option is a retirement home. These homes feel most like an ordinary home, with trained staff to provide help and medical care if needed.
Some reasons for needing a nursing home, such as developing dementia, can’t always be avoided. Still, living a healthy lifestyle by eating nutritiously and engaging in regular physical activity can greatly reduce your chances of being placed in a nursing home (or any other type of home/assisted living) dramatically. If a nursing home is the only option for you or a loved one, make sure it’s a quality nursing home.