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Even as long-term care advances to meet growing needs of residents and families, some misconceptions remain about the quality of care that people receive when they live in a residential facility. In order to dispel some of the most common myths that people have about residential nursing facilities, NMHCA, with information provided by the American Health Care Association (AHCA), has listed below several myths vs. realities of living in a nursing facility.

Myths and Realities of Living in a Nursing Facility

(Information provided by the American Health Care Association)

Myth: A nursing facility is another name for a hospital.


  • Nursing facilities are not hospitals, even though they offer many types of care such as medical, rehabilitative, and nursing care provided as needed by qualified personnel.
  • Residents in nursing facilities are given the care they need while leading as active a life as possible.
  • Nursing facilities do not have restrictive visiting hours as do hospitals.
  • Residents are encouraged to eat in the communal dining room with their friends.
  • Activity directors plan various activities on a daily basis to stimulate residents mentally, physically, and socially.

Myth: If I enter a nursing facility, I will never go home.


  • The primary goal for nursing facilities is to rehabilitate residents so that they can return to the community.
  • Many residents are discharged to their homes or other more independent facility arrangements.

Myth: I will have no privacy in a nursing facility.


  • Resident rooms are considered private. Therefore, staff respect the resident's privacy by knocking before entering.
  • Nursing facilities provide common areas for residents to socialize.

Myth: Nursing facility residents are confused.


  • Many residents enter a nursing facility because diseases such as Alzheimer's make caring for themselves difficult or impossible.
  • Alzheimer's residents often live together in special wings where they can receive the specialized care they require.
  • Memory problems can often be improved through proper nutrition, exercise, social stimulation, and properly controlled medication.

Myth: Nursing facility residents surrender their rights to make decisions.


  • It is a resident's legal right to make choices about activities, schedules, health care, and other aspects of facility life.
  • Resident councils, which are made up of residents and sometimes family members, provide an opportunity for residents to address their concerns to staff and to one another.
  • Residents also have choices when it comes to treatment decisions. Residents may shift the decision-making responsibility to their children or other loved ones. Other residents may choose to prepare an advance directive, a legal document designed to express the resident's wishes for treatment should the resident be unable to communicate his/her desires.

Myth: Nursing facility residents do not receive adequate care.


  • Internal quality assurance programs constantly monitor the standard of care.
  • Each state has inspectors, called surveyors, who monitor the quality of care given in every facility. Surveyors make an unscheduled visit to a facility once each year or if a complaint has been made.
  • If problems are cited, the facility works on a plan of correction and implements any changes immediately.
  • If you feel your loved one is not receiving adequate care or attention, discuss these issues with the director of nursing or the administrator.

Myth: Nursing facilities have an unpleasant odor.


  • Many elderly people are incontinent which may lead to an occasional odor.
  • Currently, there are many effective cleaning products available today, so a properly cleaned facility should smell pleasant.
  • Incontinent residents should be changed and cleaned properly.

Myth: Nursing facility residents are malnourished.


  • Proper nutrition is an utmost concern of nursing facility staff.
  • Dietary managers should be available to discuss any problems concerning food.
  • Some residents may be on restrictive diets that limit the amount of fat, salt, cholesterol, or sugar. However, the dietary staff works to ensure these diets are varied and appealing.

Myth: Husbands and wives must live apart from one another in a nursing facility.


  • Married couples entering a nursing facility together may share a room as mandated in the patient's bill of rights.
  • Nursing facility staff respect the privacy of couples living together.

Myth: Nursing facility residents are lonely.


  • Family and friends are encouraged to visit whenever they wish.
  • Residents often meet several people in the nursing facility with common interests and become friends.
  • Nursing facility staff work to make family and friends feel welcome.

Myth: Nursing facility residents are given medications to keep them sedated.


  • Each resident has the right to know what medication he/she is taking.
  • Residents also have the right to refuse any or all treatment.
  • Government regulations require that a consultant pharmacist and state inspectors review residents' medications.
  • Family members and residents should be included in the care planning process.
  • Family members and/or residents should question facility staff concerning the use of any medication that they do not understand.

Myth: Nursing facility staff keep residents physically restrained.


  • Due to the increased number of alternative products, physical restraints are no longer used as an answer for residents who wander, have difficulty sitting, etc.
  • Residents and family members have the right to know the use of restraining devices may be used only under a physician's prescription.
  • Family members and/or residents should speak with a doctor, nurse, or administrator if they feel a physical restraint is detrimental or being used improperly.