Helping Nursing Home Residents Make Use of Outdoor Space

Posted by Dr. El - April 24, 2009 - Boomers, Tips for gifts, visits - 4 Comments

Dale Carter, of Transition Aging Parents, sent me the following question after reading my last post about caregiving for family members in nursing homes.

“Eleanor, when I went to check in to volunteer today at our local nursing home, I was chatting with a lady and she said the thing she missed most was not being able to get outside in the beautiful springtime. She was in a wheelchair. How do you respond when you hear that? Any suggestions on something the nursing home or a volunteer could do?”

As someone who plans to spend the spring, summer, and fall of my nursing home years out on the patio, it saddens me to see how difficult it is for many nursing home residents to get outside.  Sometimes people tell me they haven’t been out for months, and occasionally years, or only for clinic appointments.  I have several suggestions to help nursing home residents get some fresh air.
  • If getting outside is important to you, pick a nursing home with accessible outdoor space. Be aware that some nursing homes limit the times of year the patio can be used.
  • Try to get a room on the ground floor of the building, so it’s easier to get outside.
  • Attend activities such as barbecues and outdoor games provided by the recreation department.
  • If you’re unable to wheel your own chair, encourage family members to go with you to the patio, or off-campus, if there’s no patio, even if it’s just wheeling around the block.
  • Enlist a volunteer to bring you outside, either through the volunteer directly, the volunteer coordinator, the social worker, or another advocate.
  • Recruit staff members to take you out.  If you’re able to stay outside by yourself, or with another resident, ask one staff member to bring you out, and another to pick you up at a certain time, such as before lunch.  Try to make it convenient for their work schedule.
  • If you can’t wheel your chair, but have private funds, and the nursing home permits it, buy an electric wheelchair and get out there on your own.
  • If there are nursing home-wide difficulties accessing outdoor space, this can be addressed in Resident Council Meetings or with the nursing home administration.