By: Michelle Remold
This weekend I visited my alma mater, the University of Northern Iowa, as well as some friends. While there, I had the invitation extended to myself and a couple friends to attend ‘Happy Hour’ at one of the nursing homes. Being a Gerontology major, the idea of “Happy Hour” in a nursing home and how it worked intrigued me; so we attended the happy hour. I was thrilled to see how many people were there and having a good time. The atmosphere was great and they had live entertainment; I was impressed to say the least. We had a few people come talk with us, many of which were talking about how much they enjoyed going to the happy hour. At the end of the night, a gentleman came over and was telling us that he wasn’t a resident there, but that his mother had been there for thirteen years and he loves the facility, so he goes to the happy hour to see people. He talked about how great he thought it was that they had this every week and how much fun it was attending. Before he walked away he said, “I think what is great about this is that it shows everyone just because you are in a nursing home doesn’t mean your life is over.”
This rang in my head the rest of the night; “Just because you’re in a nursing home doesn’t mean your life is over.” As I looked around the room, I noticed there were spouses sipping wine with their loved one they had brought to the happy hour, there were tables full of friends laughing and people singing along to the music. This made me smile; they didn’t view their lives as being over because they were in the nursing home.
I started thinking about those with dementia and Alzheimer’s. I know there are facilities out there that offer a ‘Happy Hour’ to the residents on their dementia care wings. I think that these types of activities are important to offer residents. While yes, for people on dementia care wings, their lives as they once knew them have changed, why not offer activities such as this to them? It could even be non-alcoholic beverages like sparkling cider. Invite their families to join them, play music, sing songs, and just have fun. Their lives aren’t “over” either; things, such as activities, just need to be modified a little. They probably would enjoy activities like this, especially when the environment was as relaxing and fun as the one I attended.
I think that unfortunately the stigma of nursing homes gives the illusion that it’s the end when someone is there. That shouldn’t be the case; many people are there because they need the help. I think that this gentleman hit it on the head, just because someone is in a nursing home doesn’t mean their life is over. Offering activities such as “Happy Hour” gives a sense of normalcy and gives them the opportunity to participate in social activities. Realizing that being in a nursing home doesn’t mean “life is over,” can be hard to come to terms with, especially when Alzheimer’s and dementia are a factor. I view being in a nursing home as another chapter in someone’s life; that might be why visiting in nursing homes doesn’t bother me. One thing is for sure though; every time I visit a nursing home now there will always be a voice in the back of my mind saying, “Just because you are in a nursing home doesn’t mean your life is over.”
Michelle graduated from the University of Northern Iowa with her Bachelor of Arts in Gerontology: Social Sciences and a minor in Family Studies. She is currently pursuing her Master’s degree in Aging Studies and Nursing Home Administration from Minnesota State University Mankato.