Guest Columns

Come fly with us!

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Diane Carter
Diane Carter


Watching the news these days, it's easy to feel like nursing homes and those of us working in them aren't doing anything right. I want to suggest otherwise.

I think about the residents in our care every time I am about to fly on an airplane. I find myself getting more and more nervous. On occasion, I feel like I'm going to war with those who control everything in my environment. This must be how residents may feel when so much of their lives is no longer under their control.  

Think about it. When you board a plane, you move into a very small space. With no choice on seatmates, you endure your four-hour flight next to someone who refuses to close his mouth when chewing gum, or worse, someone who is snoring and falling into your space the entire flight. To make matters worse, there's the seat belt. You're restrained in your seat with strangers for the entire flight.

What must our residents experience with restraints?  After moving from their homes, landing in a room with another person they have never met, some in unenlightened facilities may find themselves wearing a “seat belt” 24 hours a day.  

Let's not forget the challenge of using the restroom on an airplane. When flying, you are at the mercy of a pilot and the seat belt sign. Again, I think of residents who are dependent on staff to help them go to the bathroom. To a resident, the process for toileting that may seem as frustrating as the rules on a flight. 

Like a frustrated resident, I don't always buy it that the seat belt and the bathroom rules are for my “safety.”  I just barely start to relax when I hear the pilot say, “We are beginning our descent.”  Relief at last! We will be landing in 30 minutes. Only 30 more minutes of someone controlling my every move. What must our residents think faced with this possibly for the remainder of their lives?

Fortunately, for most nursing home residents, resident voice is no longer just an ideal but a reality. Today, we do not control when residents eat, use the toilet, or get a bath. We give residents a choice in what they eat and who they live with. We've taken action to reduce the use of restraints. We take resident voice very seriously.

While it is the media's job to point out the bad apples in our field,  there's plenty of good apples in our field. Staff are changing nursing homes for the better by listening to what residents say and need to make the most of life. Take pride in all you do to make residents' lives good. 

After all, I believe you have out done the airline industry. I say, “Come fly with us.” We know how to make life worth living.

Diane Carter, RN, MSN, FAAN, is the president and CEO of AANAC and AADNS.

Guest Columns

Guest columns are written by long-term care industry experts, ranging from academics and thought leaders to administrators and CEOs.