I work for a company that produces newsletters for nursing homes and related facilities. It isn't whizkid's experience, but I type up their newsletters and activity calendars. These facilities go to great lengths to be home for their residents. It isn't a just a matter of care, but of quality of life.

The medical care is the reason for these facilities' existence, but it isn't all that they provide. The homes have a life for these elderly people that it seems unilkely they could get at home; social and physical activities for people who, in home care, would probably sit in a room all day staring at the television. They allow a measure of independence for people whose minds are fine but whose bodies have stopped working on them, who would often feel like they were being a burden on their families if they stayed at home, and who would probably not be getting the physical and occupational therapy at home that keeps their bodies functional as long as possible. They have something to do there, with other people, be it bingo, Bible study groups, or writing opinionated editorials for the facility newsletters like a couple of ladies do. They have people around them who understand their lives because they are about the same age. (Sheesh, I'm 28 and I feel out of touch with young people; I can't imagine what it must be like for people in their eighties).

And then there are the Alzheimer's disease units. My great-aunt Jean lives in a retirement facility to be near her husband Arthur who is in the Alzheimer's unit there. He doesn't recognize her too often any more. I don't think she could care for him on her own, not as physically frail as she is. It's hard enough on her emotionally; the facility takes the burden off her of getting someone whose brain is just not functioning properly to eat, keep clean, and every other thing a healthy human takes for granted. Long-term care facilities can offer snoezelen, "sensory orientation" and other activities that an untrained person would not be able to give them. (From many of articles I've typed, loved ones of Alzheimer's patients usually need a lot of guidance to hold a conversation with the patient.)

And the facilities hold support groups for home caretakers and people dealing with their their loved ones' decline. Some of the facilities also have "adult day care" services which might be an alternative for families where an elderly person can't be left alone and the breadwinner can't give up working. This is a compromise for those who have a huge problem with the idea of their loved one living in a facility.

My grandfather died in a nursing home. Yes, it would have been wonderful if a series of transient ischemic attacks and strokes hadn't affected both his body and brain so that he could have continued to live at home, down the street from my uncle. If he had to die, perhaps it would have been nice if he'd had a heart attack in his own home's bathroom and not that of a facility; even the medical care there wasn't able to save him. But that wasn't a possibility. My uncle tried to care for him at home; my grandfather became hostile to his own family as if he didn't know who they were, and getting him to take his medication was damned near impossible. There wasn't much alternative to a nursing home, and that's how it is in real life for many people.