Home. The four letter word that has such significance in our lives. The word, that when it is spoken has the power to conjure up memories such as warm smells of food cooking in the kitchen, lazy evenings of sitting on the front porch and the love of the family we all so want to keep with us forever. Emotions run wildly through our being as we remember the carefree days of our youth and the feeling of security from those we love.
That’s why being “homelike” just isn’t enough. In the near 17 years I have worked in and around nursing homes, I have heard the phrase “become more homelike” used more than I could ever keep count. Homelike is an accurate description of a “good” long term care facility. But why would we ever want to stop at being like something that gives humanity the most comfort, security, peace and autonomy we have ever known in our existence? In order to become a “great” home we must press toward the mark of becoming home in every sense of the word.
A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to visit our home Chautauqua Rehabilitation & Nursing Center , located in Defuniak Springs, FL. I learned about so many little things that they provide for the Elders who live there that truly make it home in every sense of the word.
One such example is the story of Ms. Sims. The stakeholders who work at the home began to notice that when they came in to work in the mornings there would be clothes hung all around the courtyard. After much examination they discovered that Ms. Sims was “hanging her clothes out to dry”. In some places this very act would have been taboo but not at Chautauqua. They quickly came to the conclusion that they needed to enable her to do the things she had always done so they built her a clothesline to hang her clothing on.
This is such a simple thing to do but speaks volumes. The idea of creating a normal environment in which our Elders can age in is simply the best idea out there. Gone are the days of coffee socials and bingo and in front of us are the days of performing the very chores that make up our entire existence! A friend of mine who travels quite a bit with her job once said that she loves to come home and wash her dishes. It is the act of taking care of her home that reminds her how special it is to be at home. This is the piece that the long term care world has been missing for years. While trying to become homelike, we have overlooked the very acts that make us feel at home. After all, hanging clothes out to dry is only one small step taken to close the gap between being merely homelike to becoming a true home. I think Dorothy said it best as she clicked her heels together and wished for a better place. There truly is no place like home!