I know what I want when I’m in a nursing home…and it sure as heck is not Bingo and baggy pants! 237



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Having worked in nursing homes and in hospitals, mainly with elderly and frail clients, I am very aware of the way life usually is. Well meaning, and kindly people come to visit and bring music and life to the homes at times, the activities staff (I was one) do their best to provide a variety of outlets for the mental, emotional and physical needs of their residents.

A ‘home-like’ atmosphere is strived for. So that has worked in the very best homes, and failed miserably in the prison-like worst homes. I have seen places where the sad bodies are spaced around the room with no stimulation, no view and very little to encourage joy in the remainder of their life. Some of the crazy things work wonderfully well, I would not be allowed to undertake them now as rules have made those activities impossible.

The big stick of ‘Health and Safety’ has beaten down the simple fun we provided. We used to cook, making fried rice, and scones and cakes in the room and then enjoying it together. No one ever got sick from our food.

I once hired a complete children’s farm to come to the nursing home, and it rained on the day. So we put down black plastic and all the animals including calves, geese, chickens and goats came into the big day room. The staff nearly had a fit, but it worked, and was the best day, I cried as I watched a little Russian lady nursing a hen, and the baby goats were just like docile dogs. Another excursion was to the National Gallery, where a lady who was 100 saw for the first time the art that reflected her times. Again as we had tea the tears fell, as I saw the happiness and the animation on their faces. We also took them all to Healesville, which was a huge and exhausting expedition, but still worth it.

I only gave up my job at near 70. So I am closer to a life when the nursing home might see me on the other side of the fence. Guess what though? I know what I want. It sure as heck is not Bingo and baggy pants.

I WANT:  Happy hour every day, with a pretend bar and if necessary non-alcoholic drinks, as long as they look pretty. I would like every room to have the choice of a laptop or iPad area, so a desk is essential. If my brain is still active I want to keep it that way. I do not want to be put to bed at 6pm. Television is an option, not one I would worry about but want a Kindle with large print and endless books to browse. I simply will not sit and sing Daisy, although I know the previous generations loved it, I think for my generation it will be Abba, the Beatles, and if really desperate country music. But in my room there will be the muffled beat of Led Zepellin, or White Stripes, unless I am having a nostalgic day, then it will be Eva Cassidy and Leonard Cohen.

Baby boomers and beyond will also need outside entertainment, so stage and screen visits will be needed. Watch out world, as those in their 60s and 70s now will need a very different care facility. We will want to dress more trendy than thermal. All this is pie in the sky I know, as there will not be any money for the next wave of nursing home residents. So how about lobbying the rich and famous and asking them to start putting money into a new breed of care homes? Well I can dream, just don’t put me in an armchair listening to Daisy!


What do you think? What would you like your life to be like when you’re 80? Tell us below.

Jacqui Lee

Jacqui Lee is 75 and now retired but the last ten years or so have been some of her busiest. She worked at a hospital, where she took several Certificated courses, she cleaned a school, helped to run two conventions, wrote short stories, started painting, and in fact is never bored even now, "I honestly feel we are lucky to still be upright and breathing, and my motto is, Remember yesterday, dream of tomorrow, but live today. I love fun, clothes, food and friends."

  1. I would rather die than be put into a nursing home

    14 REPLY
    • I work in Aged Care now and all those comments are true they should be asking the Residents “what would YOU like to do/ see different here”but sadly NOTHING changes even after their input.

    • Always promised my dear Mum that she would never go to a Nursing Home. Lived with us for her last 4 years with dementia!

    • Some of us have no options. My husband was in one for four months only because at home when I moved away the lifter from the bed he would sway from side to side. If he had come down on top of me I would not have been able to move him. He had MND. Some of you make us feel we have put our loved ones away for convenience..It was not an easy decision.

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      • I do know the other side and have seen carers totally tired out and sick, even dying before the person they care for did. A terrible decision to make for anyone. All I am asking is that some money and thought might be used to make it the best there is. Look at the ‘Eden’ project. have a friend involved with that. I also know of a nursing home that provides amazing outdoor ‘waiting’ areas for dementia patients who become anxious at dusk. So they can feel that they are free and outdoors.

    • if I have alcholol I die so easy I say I just know I have had a great life will buy a bottle of Moet and look at the water and slip away.

  2. Well written and I totally agree as I also work as an Administration Manager in aged care !!! The staff are very caring and do their very best but rightly so are overwritten by policies and procedures. Things such as cooking and folding laundry are now no longer allowed due to infection control. Yes there will need to be a change in aged care moving forward but then there always is change so the next generation of recipients have to try and start the ball rolling by letting the powers that be know what they expect. Let us age disgracefully !!!

    3 REPLY
    • No wonder the germs grab them when they walk out the front door, living in a sterile environment does not do anyone anygood. I do work in a nursing home

    • So agree with you Sheila, the things that they normally would have done help enormously to make life worthwhile, and give it purpose. Would like to tie the beaurocrats to a chair with red tape and give them a lecture on what makes life meaningful, and it surely is not the fat rule book they worry about, its little steps; having hair combed, a walk, making a cake, helping to chop veg, small joys. There are wonderful, clever staff in some places who can bypass this. Where I worked animals were allowed to visit sometimes. It helps.

    • You are so right in regard to policies and procedures, I am so frustrated by the amount of paperwork that is required which compromises the care of those who need it and depend on it, the balance is all wrong. (I would do the paperwork in my own time ensuring that my folks had the very best I could give them, even being reprimanded for doing little errands in my own time!!)

  3. I am with you 100 per cent and i am one step away from getting there but having seen the elderly living kike zombies in these so called homes away from home i will fight anyone who tries to put me there

    5 REPLY
    • Most in n. h. have dementia and or had strokes which makes it very difficult for families to care for them because those with dementia will wander away and many with stroke are partly paralysed and require lifting machines to attend to their activities of daily living.
      Most patients in hospitals are now elderly since I had started nursing in 1968. Nurses often comment that the ward is like a nursing home or dementia ward and staffing needs to be increased as a result especially considering that over half the population are overweight.

  4. I so know what you are talking about. Let’s have some fun. I watched my Mum deteriorate in a Nursing Home. They don’t have to be boring sterile places. My mum deteriorated because she wasn’t allowed to fold washing. Help prepare food etc. People waste away when they have no purpose in life. Go for it !!

    2 REPLY
    • Susan we did that; used to get huge baskets of socks and washing to fold. Things they could stir. I also did painting when I could but that needs one on one sometimes, and not enough staff. There are great staff at our local nursing home, I just abhor the red tape brigade ….

  5. My time is getting closer too scares the hell out of me. I would love to be in the same place as you Jacqui Lee

    1 REPLY
    • We could be two wicked old ladies together!

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  6. I’ve worked in nursing homes & to be honest I never ever want to end up in one. I would never ever put my Elderly parents in one either.

    3 REPLY
    • Unfortunately Karen some don’t have a choice. I said I would never put my mother in one but when she was 92 she got lewy body dementia and,a blocked valve to the heart, I could not look after her 24/7 and so I did what I said I would never do. Believe me it was the saddest day of my life.

      1 REPLY
      • Thank you Marilyn, my situation is similar to yours and although heartbreaking but absolutely the best choice, please everyone, don’t judge others till you walking their shoes!

        1 REPLY
        • Yes that form of dementia is an even more cruel one, and my heart goes out to anyone who has to make decisions. But at 90, well you did her proud.

    • This happened to my mum too. My sister lived close by. She just lost her husband last year when our mum got pneumonia etc. Mum didnt want to go into age care after hospital. So my sister took her ,it was too hard on her . Mum said if she was ever put into aged care she would die first… she lasted 3 days.. but failing health is too much responsibility on untrained family. I sat at my mums bed side many days and i sure as hell want a bullet before i get to that stage. Its terrible torture.

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