Nursing Homes: Dying for Company
Nursing homes are one of the fastest growing populations in the United States. There are literally thousands of people today living in nursing homes who have never had anyone visit them once. A great number of them never receive visitors. And many of these residents will die within the first two years of living there. Are these two facts related? Are people literally dying for company? I believe there is strong correlation that this is true.
Today, there are over 1.5 million residents in the U.S. in Nursing Homes. Of these residents, 60 percent receive no visitors at all if they have no relatives living nearby. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, when a person moves into a nursing home, their number of visits declined by half, regardless of their age. What do all these numbers mean? It means that when people are forced to enter a nursing home due to declining age, inability to care for oneself, by disease, or by accident, they are often forgotten by society.
Another sad statistic is that people do not live very long after they enter a nursing home. Research indicates that between 50 to 60 percent of people admitted to care homes die within the first two years. Even worse, the mortality rates are highest in the first six months of entering into a nursing home.
The church I am pastor of has a deacon’s mother living in one and recently, one of our members has had to enter such a facility. One of my favorite things to do is to visit these residents there. I read out the Bible to them or I just sit and listen to them and help them catch up on what’s happening in the church or in their community. I sometimes have dinner with them. However I don’t restrict my visits to only those residents whom I know. Many of these men and women are literally dying to have someone to talk to. They thrill to have someone to just sit and listen to what they want to say. They love to have someone hear them speak of their lives when they were active in the community, working, or raising their children. I have just begun a Wednesday night Bible study there.
I write letters to prisoners in state prisons and in Death Row but I truly believe a large part of the forgotten ones are those who are confined, by no choice of their own, to nursing homes. Being out of sight, they are frequently out of mind. I feel it is one of the most enjoyable experiences that I have. To have these people share their life with you is so enriching to me. I urge you to visit someone in a nearby nursing home, an assisted living center, or a facility such as these, because many of them are dying – dying for company. I believe it is what Christ would have us do and if He were here, He Himself would be doing.