Years ago I gave up quite a bit when I moved into the nursing home. Leaving my home where everything was comfortable and convenient made me feel like I could not function.
At the facility, I did not want a phone because I could not answer it without assistance. That changed after many trips to the nurses’ station to answer calls. At home I used a speakerphone, but at the facility I wanted a headset for privacy.
I knew the facility's aides could only help me with my care needs. Without personal care attendants to assist me, I had no way to do my personal business. At home my attendants were my employees. I paid employer costs and withheld and paid their taxes. Since I needed a dependable way to handle my employer responsibilities and pay my bills, I had an attorney's office do it.
My hometown bank was too far away for me to use, so I opened an account at a bank near the facility. Living there caused me to have fewer bills, although I did encounter new ones, like the pharmacy and facility statements.
The longer I lived in the facility, the more I wanted to know about my bills. I was frustrated because it was physically impossible for me to turn the pages to view the facility and pharmacy bills.
After I got Internet access it was much easier for me to communicate. I did not feel like I had given up control of my finances to the attorney's office. I could e-mail questions whenever I wanted, and I did not have to worry about using the telephone, which required another person's assistance. The attorney's office e-mailed a list of bills each month. I decided I would have the office pay my bills as long as I was private pay. But I missed taking care of my own business. I felt like I was out of touch.
When I went on Medicaid, I began taking care of my own business again with the help of activity staff. As I received funding from the board of developmental disabilities, I requested that we should try to do most of the paperwork and billing by e-mail.
My bank began online bill paying, and it was so much easier for me to write checks to pay my bills. Over the years, developmental disabilities fine-tuned my program so that most of it could be completed by e-mail. That certainly made it easier for me and allowed me to be more independent.
I did not want to use my file in the business office for my personal bills. I bought an expanding file for them and kept it in my room. I had someone shred my old files before they were thrown away. Even though I never lost anything important, I wish the nursing home would have had locked storage spaces for residents. I would gladly have paid a fee to have a secure place to keep valuables. When I was hospitalized, either a friend or my sister kept my purse and backpack. If those items had been securely stored at the facility, there would have been no concern and my family would have had access.
We all have lives and enjoy material things. When we go to a nursing home, we have to learn how to live without many of them.
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Kathleen Mears has been a nursing home resident in Southeast Ohio for 14 years. Long-Term Living 2010 December;59(12):56