Fiction Friday presents a Nursing Home

Nursing Home

Nursing Homes.  The last of the county poor houses.

Here is a bit about the history behind ‘the home.’  I guess it is time to put grandma in ‘the home.’


In the beginning of the nineteenth century, women’s and church groups began to establish special homes for the elderly persons. Often concerned that worthy individuals of their own ethnic or religious background might end their days alongside the most despised society, they established—as the founder of Boston’s Home for Aged Women (1850), explained—a haven for those who were “bone of our bone, and flesh of our flesh”. Advocates for these asylums contrasted their benevolent care with the horrors of those who were relegated to the almshouse. “We were grateful,” wrote the organizers of Philadelphia’s Indigent Widows’ and Single Women’s Society, one of the nation’s earliest old age homes, in 1823, “that through the indulgence of Divine Providence, our efforts have, in some degree, been successful, and have preserved many who once lived respectfully from becoming residents of the Alms House”.


The work house spoke before and is invited to jump in any time.


The poor houses or work houses have all been shut down in favor of keeping most of the poor in the community.  When these fell away due to social programs, welfare, unemployment the nursing homes remained and are still funded by the county.


These homes survived the deinstitutionalization that happened in the 1980s.


As the aging population grows there are retirement communities, assisted living facilities and other forms of segregation for the old people among us.


A person puts grandma in the home assuming they will care for her and keep her busy with some senior water games, basket weaving and safe social events.  If you ask me, include the distribution of medications and people watching the doors the homes are much like the mad house.


After the big hurricane some administrators in a nursing home admittedly put a batch of very elderly and infirm patients down.  Flat out killed them rather than care for them.  It was hot they said.  They were without power and cut off, what else were they to do?


A court found this was okay and the staff is free to continue work in their chosen field.


It just makes me mad.


Sure there are more regulations than ever before but the staff is as underpaid as always.  The turnover is high in patients and care.


Another place that is like a cancer ward, seems everyone here is going to die, it is just a matter of when, on whose shift and is it going to be a good time for the family to break from work and life for the memorial?


I suppose it is a better choice to put people in the home than it is to put them in the looney bin.  No one volunteers to come read to the mentally possessed but they will read to an old man for hours on end.



To a large degree, many of the pension advocates had overestimated the impact of pensions on the lives of the needy elderly. Most had simply assumed that, with monthly annuities, individuals could live independently. They saw little reason to reform the poorhouse or support it with financial resources. A few, however, such as aging advocate Homer Folks, argued that only about 15 percent of the almshouse population were in the institution because of strict financial need. “The others,” he explained, “are physically infirm and sick, and have various kinds of ailments that require personal attention of the kind that you could not get in an individual home; [they] require nursing or medical attention . . . in some sort of institution” (Thomas, p. 40). Nonetheless, the symbol of the almshouse was so powerful that Folks’s argument had little public support. Despite its relatively small inmate population, the almshouse stood as a tangible sign of a despised welfare system. There seemed little doubt that it needed to be eliminated.


That is how the alms house became a home.


Did you know a home has more control over its clients as a prison does?  Okay, I exaggerated, there are no bars and no armed guards, razor wire or guard towers.


Yes, there are regulations and watch dogs but still, not all folks can adapt to an old folks home environment and not all folks are likeable   Sometimes the fit is not all that good and real fights break out.


Now the people here at the nursing home may be short timers, near hospice or simply recovering from some huge and these days orthopedic surgery.  It is amazing the things that can be replaced with hardware on a human body.  The short timers are just that.  In and out like an age segregated rehab physical therapy unit.  They come in and get better or progress to the point of hospice where the family can take them home.


Some people do not belong here at all.  They are perfectly healthy and able to take their own meds on schedule but the worried well among them insists this is the best place to be.


Sometimes the mix of residents and staff is so good that everyone seems to be getting along and doing well.  Until the family comes around and insists the home isn’t running right.


The ones who are losing their minds to brain disease are the most difficult, toward the end they are much like the new spirit who has crossed over but doesn’t quite have it together enough to get their bearings.  They pretty much remain confused and afraid.  The visitors and staff feel much the same.


I have had many people coming and going but I can tell you there are very few ghosts.  Many of them are the souls from the group of a person about to cross.  They check in on the progression of passing.  They are waiting on the other side to help the folks across.


I remember once a new nurse came to work, young and healthy and ready to go.  She was helping a patient up from her chair and had a massive stroke and died right there in the arms of a white haired woman she had only met a few days before.


No one was waiting for the young and happy nurse when she crossed over.


Nursing Home

By Sally

Sally Franklin Christie Blogger and Author of If I Should Die and Milk Carton People.