William A. Banks, GRECC, Veterans Affairs Medical Center and Saint Louis University School of Medicine, Division of Geriatrics, Department of Internal Medicine, St. Louis, MO.
Marian R. Banks, Center for Human Nutrition, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO.
The term "nursing home" is often a misnomer. The typical nursing home is more institution than home and run more like a hospital than a household. Indeed, the American Heritage dictionary defines "nursing home" as "a hospital for convalescent or aged people" (emphasis ours). Yet many of us will spend a good portion of the last part of our lives in these institutions. How can these last years be made as enjoyable and meaningful as possible? We recently published a study examining the effects of animal-assisted therapy (AAT) on loneliness among nursing home residents. The statistical aspect of that study has been published elsewhere and it showed, among other things, that AAT can reduce loneliness.1 However, during the course of that study we learned several lessons that couldn't be reduced to statistics. Here, we review some of the things we learned about making long-term care facilities more comfortable and enjoyable for residents.
There are many movements afoot to improve life in long-term care facilities. Pet therapy, music therapy, activities and holiday events are all assumed to be progressive programs. Since these programs are considered to be good, they are assumed to be good for all.