Saturday, March 26, 2011

A Post "about" Nursing Homes.

Let us ponder for a moment the issue of nursing homes. In many ways, they are a very, very sad thing. Many folks are slightly weirded out going there -- me, not so much, as I grew up in them - my mom was a nurse at a nursing home, and she'd bring me in sometimes while she worked and I got to go and play with the old people. Rather enjoyed it.

However, the fact still remains - they can be sad places. But more than that - they are so often abused by the children who put their parents there. After all, part of the reason for children to exist is to care for their parents in their old age - that is part of why children are a blessing - they care for you when you get old. And yet, we see so many kids in their 40-60s just unthinkingly and selfishly shuffle mom off to the home... when there's no reason why mom couldn't move in with them.

This is wrong and sad. Nursing homes are often overused - and the family is better when it is multi-generational -- living in the same house with my grandparents for a brief time when I was young was one of the great blessings of my life.

So, how do we fix this? The common assumption, the general popular idea has just become "When you get old, you go to a nursing home. That's just how it is." And this gets abused and love is forsaken. How do we fix this? How do we cut off the unkind and uncaring abandonment of parents to lonely isolation in their old age? I can see two options:

1. We denounce all use and forms of nursing homes as wicked and evil and against God's natural design of the human race. It is an artificial, abhorrent thing and must be avoided at all costs.

2. We say, "Part of your duty as a child is to care for your parents, using your best judgment. As such, consider how you handle your parents. Do not just wantonly shuffle them off to the nursing home - but can you care for them, can you still handle their health issues and provide companionship and company for them? Consider more than just financial stuff - and how their care would negatively impact you (for then your fear also clouds the positives that comes from having them around). If to the home they must go - normally because of some health problem that you simply cannot care for - so be it. But think, consider your duty as a child, and seek first to show love to your parent."

I would argue that the second approach is more in line with Scripture. We don't start forbidding things that are not forbidden in Scripture simply because they can be abused in an obviously wicked way. That becomes a matter of us, in our own wisdom, trying to prevent sin by adding to God's Word, rather than using our wisdom in the service of the various people God has placed into our lives.

(and if you don't get what this is also "about" - remember that there are varying reactions to the various false assumptions in this world about the other side of a parent/child relationship)

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Just so you guys know - I in no way endorse "option 1". In fact, that is more an homage to the knee-jerk, overly legalistic view that can often arise to any sin or shortcoming. See also no TV, no movies, no popular music, no drinking, no dancing, no face cards.

Nursing homes can indeed be fine things.


Anonymous said...


I'll be moving in with you in a couple of years to enhance the bringing up of my grandchildren. All I want is a bathroom, bedroom, and large screen LED TV [prefer 40" or larger] and DirecTV. Can't way.

Anonymous said...

I wonder how much of the elder-abuse in these situations is from individuals who were themselves abused by their parents as children? I know it happens that way sometimes, though it's surely not the rule. It'd be interesting to see some statistics on the children of abusive, divorced, absent, etc. parents and how those parents are treated as they age by the children they become dependent on. Any thoughts?

Anonymous said...

While I grant the point you make about kids abandoning their parents, I think your argument breaks down as you get into the specifics, because you are cutting with a knife that has a dull edge.

I see Nursing Homes as a wonderful gift of God. And frequently it is the case that the feeble receive care in Nursing Homes that they absolutely could not receive in the home of their children. In these cases, and I suspect these cases are in the majority, placing mom or dad in the nursing home is an act of love on the part of the kids. Furthermore, the elderly who have loveless families may do far better in nursing care than isolated in the homes of their hard hearted kids, no?

Taking your elderly parents into your home may be a very bad decision....bad for them.

Tom Fast

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

Tom - You are right - nursing homes in fact CAN be a very good blessing. Even though they aren't the "natural" way of doing things and are a tool.

The fact that a tool may be abused does not mean that the same tool can't often and frequently be used by Christians in love....

Something that too many people neglect completely when it comes to your pet "issue" to fix in society -- be it disdain of our elders... or even contraceptives.

Also, as a note - I generally try to encourage folks to think about nursing homes, especially those who would be isolated and alone otherwise -- go move somewhere where you can see folks. I tend to like nursing homes quite a lot... they are like dorm rooms for the elderly, and I loved living in the dorms. If you need interaction... go to where the people are.

Phillip said...

Nursing homes aren't unnatural. The natural thing to do is for the child to care for their parents. It doesn't mean every child has to individually care for their parents. If as in the past you have 12 children, they don't have to shuffle between homes every month so everyone can care for their parents. The child who's best able/ most wanting to cares for the parents. It is natural to let the sibling who lives in the same town be the active caretaker of the parents because that way the parents can stay in their community with their friends. If this is the best way for the parents then the other children should help out as they can. Sending your parents to a nursing home because that is where they can get the best care is natural. It would be unnatural to insist the parent die in their home so the child could be the caretaker rather than letting medical professionals try to help the parent. Caring for your parents in a nursing home is natural. Abandoning them to a nursing home is not.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...


One thing - "It would be unnatural to insist the parent die in their home so the child could be the caretaker rather than letting medical professionals try to help the parent." You realize that this would have been totally incomprehensible to anyone 200 years ago. The whole idea of dying somewhere other than home used to be totally terrifying -- which is actually the idea behind modern Hospices programs.

Now, indeed, it is very caring to see that your parents get proper care -- even though Nursing Homes are a modern invention. Not everything that wasn't done 1000 years ago to care for family members must be flat out condemned as being against "nature". Instead, tools should be used for good proper purposes.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...


I'm not sure how much of it is a response to abuse... this is armchair/lay psychology, but a lot of time the abused have a twisted desire to please those who abused. I'm sure it happens - but I don't know how common.

A lot of times when there is a... poor usage of nursing homes it is just a matter of unthinking selfishness -- where there is a focus and attention on "our life" and not even thinking that a parent might have any right to impose on the current standards of comfort.

Anonymous said...


I would hate to repristinate (sp?) health care from 200 years ago and make that the standard for what is natural. I'm not quite sure why health care 200years ago is to be considered more natural.....unless bleeding with leeches is what you're thinking about. Are you Amish? LOL

Tom Fast

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

Tom - my point is that it ISN'T -- however, many folks who want to taut how we must follow "nature" have a romanticized view of the past, as though things were somehow better and more holy.

Advances are wonderful things. I do think that Nursing homes are (or at least ought to be) wonderful things. Can they be abused? Yes. Does that mean that they are thus to be placed under a blanket condemnation as some new innovation that goes against the natural order of creation (child directly caring for parent)? By no means.

In the first post, point 1 is not a real option (in my opinion).

Anonymous said...


Yeah I see that. But I couldn't resist. The Amish comment was calling my name.


Anonymous said...

Quite a stretch...Next you'll be comparing cancer treatment to birth control.

You are comparing two very different things with two very different purposes all with the goal of supporting your own "pet issue" - birth control.

And then to add a note that compares it to "the knee-jerk, overly legalistic view"...that's just a really lame attempt at justifying your view.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

Actually, some new strange Anonymous - I find that the two situations are quite related. Are not the anti-contraceptive folks always shouting how the vast majority of people are just going into birth control for selfish reasons? Are there not folks who will say NFP is okay because it is "natural", unlike the use of artificial tools?

Would you deny that some people do send their parents to the nursing home simply because they no longer want to be bothered with caring for them directly? That they disdain the gift of parents and their duties as children?

In such case, I say those who use nursing homes as a way of abrogating their duty towards their parents are wrong. Now, if the nursing home is being used as a tool to serve a parent, to give the parent care the child could not - kuddos.

The point is that the tool in question (nursing home) has a proper use and an improper use. Let a person think and act with care.

Oh, and lambasting a person while not leaving a name -- *that's* sort of lame. Hate to tell you. And rude. Really, it is.

Anonymous said...


That last anonymous was not me.

But the post before was, I just forgot to post my name.

Tom Fast

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

I figured Tom - context determining and all that stuff.

Mangot said...

To take your parents to a home is an option to children. For me, I hate to put my MOM to a nursing home, but my brothers and I have decided to do so.
For the past month, my MOM was in and out of the hospital (3 times) because of her diabetes and high blood pressure. My Dad (who is no 80 years old) used to be the primary care giver for her. Of course, we (the children) have helped him to give the best care we could offer. I normally would accompany both of them to their doctors' appointments and run errands such as getting refills of their medications; making appointments to see their doctors, accompanying them to do grocery shopping, etc.
Yet, there comes a point of time where the decision has to be made, that is to place my MOM to a nursing home. WHY? My MOM now needs a 24/7 care; she is prone to falls, and her health needs to be monitored by health care professionals.
But placing your parent to a home does not mean that your are totally abandoning her/him. We all have decided to take turns to visit her and give whatever care we could offer. For example, the distance of the home is only 2 miles from where we all live (or not even 2 miles). We all could take turns to visit her. For me, visiting her would include taking her to the patio and tell her stories, bringing PICTURES/family members to let her remember the people who love her, bringing some form of activities to share with such as painting materials, paper and pens to encourage her to write. There are a variety of things/activities to choose from depending on how creative you are.
And note...I used to work in a nursing home for some years...

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

Mangot - exactly -- Nursing Homes are indeed a wonderful blessing and tool -- a way of handling things in life when they have become hard and difficult. Sounds like you and your brothers are using this nursing home to care for your mom rather than as an easy way to avoid her.

Anonymous said...

If I were to care for my parents in my home because they were old and couldn't manage on their own, I would have no problem with that. But if they were demented, incontinent and required supervision 24 hours a day to prevent dangerous situations as they wander at all hours of the night, then no one person could handle that level of care on their own. I think if my parents still had most of their wits about them, then it is our duty to provide the best care we can. But dementia and Alzheimers care is something altogether different and cannot be done by one person because the safety issues alone require 24 hour supervision. I think you would do them a disservice having them wander at all hours of the night unattended in order to keep them at home. Providing them correct and prudent care is in itself honoring them as the Commandment asks.