7 Myths About Nursing Homes

Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Written By Diana Rodriguez on October 17, 2020
  • gettyimages 167771498
    Learn the truth about life in assisted living.
    Some people think of nursing homes as depressing and lonely places to live. Whatever you imagine is probably not what it's really like. Nursing homes offer safe, caring environments for older people who cannot live safely by themselves in their homes. Still, myths persist. Check out these myths—and the real truths—about nursing homes today.
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    Myth No. 1: Nursing home residents are all very sick.
    The truth: People live in nursing homes for various reasons. Many are older or disabled. Some just need assistance each day and need to live in a place where people can help. Some people who live in nursing homes have trouble remembering to take medicines. Some have trouble taking a bath without falling. Some have physical issues. Others have memory problems, such as those with Alzheimer's. But many residents may still be pretty healthy and sharp. 
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    Myth No. 2: Residents stay in bed all day.
    The truth: Visit a nursing home and you won't see most residents lounging in bed in hospital gowns all day. Many nursing home residents live active, happy lives. Nursing homes work hard to plan fun activities and events. Residents play games and take classes. They have parties. They go on outings to local shops and attractions. Nursing home workers usually encourage people to get up, move around, and exercise. Many homes have outdoor areas so residents can enjoy nice weather.
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    Myth No. 3: It feels like a hospital.
    The truth: A nursing home is not a hospital, and a good one should not feel like a hospital either. Some areas of nursing homes may feel more like a hospital if residents there need more care. But other areas are designed to feel like a home. People who live there should be able to move freely around a secure area. There are usually common areas, such as living rooms with TVs and places for families to visit and relax.
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    Myth No. 4: You'll never leave the nursing home.
    The truth: Many people do move into a nursing home for the rest of their lives. Not everyone though. Some people live in a nursing home for only a short time, while they need care. Nursing homes provide care for people who are injured or after surgery while they recover. The length of a person's stay depends on overall health and whether the person will get well enough to live safely at home.
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    Myth No. 5: Nursing homes always smell bad.
    The truth: A good, well-kept nursing home should not have a bad odor. Some people who live in nursing homes do not have control of their bladders or bowels. However, good nursing staff should clean up soils quickly. There also are cleaning products that can help get rid of odors. Nursing homes should have a pleasant smell or no smell at all. A bad smell could be a warning sign that people who live there aren't receiving proper care.
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    Myth No. 6: People who live in nursing homes don't have rights.
    The truth: Needing extra help and medical care doesn't mean you lose your right to make your own decisions. People in nursing homes still have rights. They still control their healthcare decisions. There are rules in nursing homes to keep the people who live there safe. But nursing home residents should meet with their doctors and work together to stay as healthy as possible. Residents can also choose what nursing home activities they want to do and which ones they don't. Visitors should be able to come during set visiting hours.
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    Myth No. 7: It's impossible to pay for nursing home care.
    The truth: Nursing home care can be very expensive. Not everyone has enough money saved to pay for it. But there are ways to make sure seniors get the care they need. Federal and state government programs such as Medicare and Medicaid can help cover some of the costs of nursing home care. Think about buying long-term-care insurance to help pay for nursing home care. It's best to do this early, before you need nursing home care.
7 Myths About Nursing Homes

About The Author

  1. Ensuring Quality Nursing Home Care. Health in Aging Foundation. http://www.healthinaging.org/files/documents/tipsheets/finding_nursing_home.pdf
  2. Myths and Realities of Living in a Nursing Facility. New Mexico Health Care Association. http://www.nmhca.org/myths
  3. Nursing Home Checklist. Alzheimer's Association. http://www.alz.org/sewi/documents/SNF_Check_List(2).pdf 
  4. Nursing Homes. Health in Aging Foundation. http://www.healthinaging.org/aging-and-health-a-to-z/topic:nursing-homes/
  5. Nursing Homes: Making the Right Choice. National Institute on Aging. https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/publication/nursing-homes#paying

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2020 Oct 17
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.