Thursday, April 12, 2007
Opal Egner enjoys the many options and activities available in the assisted-living wing of the Lutheran Home, where she has lived for almost five years. Egner, who formerly lived alone in Tamms, Ill., decided to move when her eyesight became weak. (Kit Doyle)

When Opal Egner couldn't read the instructions on a soup can label any longer, she was ready to move in to an assisted-living facility.

Egner's husband died in 1991, and she continued to live by herself in Tamms, Ill., for 11 years.

"One winter I got real sick, and my daughter came by every night to fix my supper," Egner said. "After I got better, I told my daughter, 'I don't think I want to stay by myself for another winter.'"

In June 2002, Egner, now 86, moved from her home into an assisted living facility at the Lutheran Home in Cape Girardeau.

"This is the best place for me," she said Tuesday from her private room. "It's a really nice place and the people here are so nice."

Morgan Beasley, assistant director of social services at the Lutheran Home, said it's important to consider moving loved ones into long-term care facilities once they lose the ability to function alone or have a chronic disease.

Other times, people may chose to go into a center if they become lonely, she said.

"Nursing homes are viewed a lot differently today than how they were viewed in the past," Beasley said. "At one time, they were viewed as a dreaded place and no one wanted to go there. Today, with all the activities that take place here, it's a lot different."

The activity calendar -- with at least one event scheduled every day -- hangs from a wall in Egner's room. Her favorite activity is the daily Bible study class, which is taught by local pastors.

Because people require different levels of care, many nursing centers have a few types of facilities available.

Long-term nursing care is for people who cannot independently perform tasks such as bathing, eating, cooking or going to the bathroom. Assisted- and independent-living facilities are less restrictive than long-term nursing facilities, and residents can perform most daily tasks on their own.

Beasley describes the assisted-living facilities as more of a "home life atmosphere," and long-term care facilities look and feel more like a hospital. Ruth Dockins, spokeswoman for the Area Agency on Aging, said there are several things to look for when choosing a nursing care facility.

"The first thing is the smell," she said. "If it smells like urine, then that's a problem."

Another important part of the process is to visit a facility during the evening hours.

All nursing-care facilities should have their latest inspection hanging near the front door, Dockins said.

"Check it out to see if there were any violations at that home," she said.

Dockins said because of the stigma associated with nursing homes, some families may be reluctant to discuss long-term care options with their loved ones. "You might have to say to your mother or father, 'look, we don't want you to get hurt' or 'we're concerned about you staying by yourself,'" she said. "It's important to include your family members in the decision-making process."

For Egner, moving into the assisted-living facility at the Lutheran Home was a decision she made on her own.

"When you get older, lose your vision and lose the ability to do things, this is where you ought to be," Egner said. "I was having to pay someone $700 a year to mow my yard and had a lady come clean my house every other week. Why even do all that when I could come here?"

Dockins said the Area Agency on Aging office, at 1219 N. Kingshighway, provides material for helping people select long-term and assisted-living facilities.

335-6611, extension 246

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