The Quality of Our Lives

The Quality of Our Lives (Photo credit: cheerfulmonk)

Adults strive for it. Legislation tries to require it. But how do you define a quality of life? Here are two definitions to get you started:

WorldNetWeb definition: your personal satisfaction (or dissatisfaction) with the cultural or intellectual conditions under which you live (as distinct from material comfort)

Business Dictionary definition: Daily living enhanced by wholesome food and clean air and water, enjoyment of unfettered open spaces and bodies of water, conservation of wildlife and natural resources, security from crime, and protection from radiation and toxic substances. It may also be used as a measure of the energy and power a person is endowed with that enable him or her to enjoy life and prevail over life’s challenges irrespective of the handicaps he or she may have.

The other day, I read two contrasting posts that gave me cause to reflect on quality of life.

The first – There is Nothing Fun About a Nursing Home seemed to be a reflection of loss the writer views her grandmother experiencing in her current capacities and living in a nursing home. The writer seems to not venture far into the facility. Her comments seem to reflect nursing homes as places where quality of life is lacking.

The second – Getting “Real” with Quality of Life seeks to contrast institutional group activities (which the author views as negative) from personalized activities (which the author views as positive). The author shares stories of people regaining a quality of life with the support of those around them while living in a nursing home.

Based upon my experiences, both of these situations are true in nursing homes, in any senior living community AND in private homes. Some “homes” are life affirming while others are life suckers.

Illness and disabilities are life changing. Quality of life is impacted. Life isn’t always easy.

But as the quote that starts this post states, quality of life depends on how we focus our energy and attention. There are those who quickly adapt to their current abilities and strive to make each day to be as good as they can. 

There are professionals and family members that are amazing at supporting others in having a high quality of life. They support interests;  provide emotional support; creatively support learning, exploration and self-expression.

The nursing home industry is exploring a variety of models to meet the varied individuals definitions of quality life and the varied levels of support needed.  As consumers (or potential consumer) you can impact the quality of your life in the future by:

1. Knowing yourself. Understanding our personal preferences can assist us in finding the correct living situation outside our home if one is required. It can also assist us in making sure our home environment is appropriate.

2. Being honest about your personal preferences. If religion, dietary options, or sexual orientation are hot topics for you, let those who are your support team know. Prefer a private room? Let your loved ones know. Plan for the financial impact of your preferences.

3. Learning about facilities in your area before you need one. Using what you know about yourself and your preferences, be involved in senior living communities in your area. Volunteer, visit friends, provide a talk on one of your passions. Getting on the inside on a regular basis will let you experience the personality of a facility. It will also allow you to witness resident to resident and staff to resident interaction.

4. Communicating, communicating, communicating. If you don’t share your preferences or your thoughts on ideal placements, others don’t know. If you end up requiring an emergency placement,  be sure someone is ready to communicate your needs and desires should you be unable to do so.

Do you have a family member in a facility? Then be involved with them, the family council, and in community events.  Don’t live near by? Then call on the phone, Skype, email, snail mail with your family member. Placing energy and attention on your loved one can greatly impact the quality of their life.

Based upon my personal and professional experiences, whether we live at home or in a senior living community, life is filled with celebrations and with grief. Sometimes we need others to provide energy and attention in order for us to have the best quality of life we can in that moment.

Yes, there are facilities, there are homes that are not safe, where care needs to be improved. Yet, most facilities have staff that want to provide the very best care and a quality life for those who live there. By supporting those facilities that are life affirming, you help preserve that quality for the future.

How do you define quality of life? What systems or facilities in your community support quality lives of elders?

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