How a Person can Change when Living in a Nursing Home, depression, withdrawal, anger, loneliness

This page was written from personal experience with major metropolitan nursing homes considered to have good standards and services. I am not a health care professional. I am not an expert on aging. I am a person who has already been there and done that with parents. You will likely get many standard answers and information on nursing home care, but as with many things, there are a lot of unanswered questions about nursing homes that you won't know to ask about until you actually experience having someone you love in a nursing home.

Considering a Nursing Home
Unusual Questions to Ask Before Choosing a Nursing Home
How a Person can Change when Living in a Nursing Home
Tips for Helping a Person living in a Nursing Home


Though I am not a health care expert, observations show me that 1. Communication skills will diminish. 2. Common objects and words may not be easily identifiable after years of nursing home living - simple things like colors, names of fruits, vegetables and meats. After 5 years of not seeing (or using) things that used to be familiar, mother forgot her favorite flower varieties, and cold not identify colors. We found bringing in magazines and picture books helped her to recollect and identify objects. We would sit with her at a table and point out certain things; ask her questions.

People only seen in the recent past may become hard to remember - like young great grandchildren! I understand that is a short-term/long-term memory issue. Look at the hints about photos in Tips for helping a person living in a nursing home. Don't feel bad if nature and time have caused someone, including yourself, not to be recognized. You may need to gently re-introduce yourself, but show your love anyway, and talk about familiar things.


Observation: In a nursing home people can become depressed - cry or withdraw. When the realization that they are there to stay sets in; or they fervently miss their previously independent life; or when they miss being among family life; or when they miss the familiarity of their old home, there may be tears and depression. Sometimes drugs will be prescribed to alleviate nursing home depression. Sometimes you have to ask for drugs. It helps to talk to the person you love. See the section on What can I talk about with a person in a nursing home?

Observation: In a nursing home people can become angry - even people who were normally docile. From time to time we hear shouters and even foul language! I have seen residents get very angry with aids, not because the aid was doing anything wrong, but rather because the person was simply "mad at the world".On the other hand, people who were normally tough, impolite or angry can become docile, polite or sweetie pies. There are people who do not change at all as well.

Suggestion: In a nursing home, initially people who do not understand they are there to stay or don't want to stay, may resist participating in activities based on the fact they believe they are only there temporarily. It can be tough to tell and re-tell the person you love that this is their home now. If you are truly uncomfortable in telling the person this outright, try setting benchmarks for going home: Clearly set a list of requirements. Is this false hope? First of all, hope is a wonderful thing. Next, the benchmarks you set should be that of a physically ok person. If indeed they can get themselves back into shape, would you take them home with you or could they go home? If so you may prefer to use this approach. "When you can walk the length of the hall without any help, and when you can go to the bathroom safely by yourself, and when you can step into and out of a tub safely, and when you are up to cooking 3 meals a day safely and when you can vacuum and dust on your own, or when there's no chance of your falling down when you are alone, . (you can add to the criteria based on the persons inability at the moment- even mental capabilities) ". When the subject comes up again, measure their progress together. Remind them of the benchmarks and kindly remind them they have to work on building certain strengths. Encourage that the nursing home is a safer place for them to be right now. Ease them into knowing they are in the best place for them. Ease them into trying activities while they're working on improving their abilities.

Observation: Some people are actually relieved to be living in nursing home: People who worried about injuries, or are tired of the energy it takes to run a home or apartment, those worried about getting in or out of the bathtub, people tired of hot days and snow days, some who don't have the energy for cooking or shopping or cleaning. Just being alone can be frightening or difficult for some people. Some people know when they have worked enough in their life and it is time they were taken care of.


Skip to our nursing home topics:

When asking nursing home care questions, find out how the nursing homes you are considering handle specific situations:

What can you expect from the person who has moved into a nursing home?

What can you do to help bridge the transition to life in a nursing home? What can I talk about with a person in a nursing home? What can I do for a person in a nursing home?

When you begin thinking about a nursing home for someone you love:

or read it all:

Click here to go to the next page:Tips for Helping a Person living in a Nursing Home

Click here to go to the previous page:Unusual Questions to Ask Before Choosing a Nursing Home

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