'Staying at home' not always the best choice

September 26, 2003

Dear Editor:

This letter is in response to the recent letter about the Senior Companion program, entitled "Program helps seniors remain in their homes."

What is so great about homes? So often, we hear, "People do not want to go to nursing homes, they had much rather stay in their own home!" We accept that as truth in our society.

I really do not have anything against programs that help people remain at home. I think it is great that there are many options available to senior citizens. However, is this "stay at home" idea really a universal truth?


Let's look at some things seniors encounter: increasing isolation, families moving away, friends becoming homebound, a feeling of being a burden on family members who take on the caregiver role, the unsettling feeling of allowing non-family caregivers or complete strangers to enter one's home, the expense of home upkeep and maintenance, the stairs that look like Mount Everest, appliances bought in the '80s that need repairs and replacements. And this is a short list!

Nursing homes do not claim to be hotels or satisfy all your whims, but they can offer seniors steady companionship, stimulating activities, three square meals a day, and new friendships with other residents their own age. I wish I had a nickel for every time I have heard someone say, "I should have come here years ago!"

A recent General Accounting Office report criticizes the federal government for not scrutinizing home- and community-based services as thoroughly as it does nursing home care.

I do not want to say options and flexibility are not good. The next time, though, when you hear of the nursing home alternatives, let's hold on to the grain of salt. Maybe instead of checking off the United Way contribution, you might invest it in your future by purchasing long-term care insurance. Make it a broad coverage policy that includes home services, assisted living and skilled nursing care.

Marlin K. Sparks, president

Charleston Health Care Center

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