Two years ago, Connie Fettig knew that a time would come when a difficult decision would need to be made.
Fettig’s aunt, Zelda Gilman, was 98 years old and living at an assisted living center in Petoskey. But Fettig knew it wouldn’t be long before her aunt needed more help, unable to live on her own.
“I was the one who was here locally and didn’t really have anyone else butting in, but it’s hard because I didn’t want to make the wrong decisions and have people getting after me,” Fettig said.
“Taking care of someone is a full-time job, and making these decisions was stressful — it would be for anyone.”
Gilman never bore children of her own, and Fettig, who has always been close with her aunt and had power of attorney privileges, was left to make the decisions about how her aunt should spend her remaining years.
The two began having talks two years before Gilman was moved from Independence Village to Bortz Health Care facility, a nursing home in Petoskey.
“I always let Aunt Zelda have her independence, but there came a time when she just needed more help and I think we did have our ducks in a row when the time came for her to move,” Fettig explained.
But even with the planning, the adjustment wasn’t easy.
“I had a lot of help from her doctor, who told her it’s just not safe for her to be alone anymore.” Fettig said. “And he told me that she would be angry with me when that time came, and she was for awhile.”
Adjusting to life in new environments can be difficult. And in nursing homes, staff work their hardest to make sure the changes happen as smoothly as possible.
“For some it just takes longer to settle in and adjust — it really depends on how social they were to begin with,” said Diana Bailey, executive director of Bay Bluffs in Harbor Springs.
Bay Bluffs, is a nonprofit, county owned facility with the mission of ensuring there is a safety net for those who need specialized or extra care.
There are 120 skilled licensed beds, and one respite unlicensed bed for those staying for a short time. All staff are certified registered nurses or certified nurse assistants that undergo state regulated training.
“Nursing homes are the most heavily regulated businesses in the health care industry,” Bailey said. “There are hundreds of pages of guidelines and we’re really weighted down by regulations.”
Many come to the facility as they recover for ailments, but now, because people are living longer and recovering faster, 65 percent of patients at Bay Bluffs do go home.
Bay Bluffs, along with other area nursing facilities, also offers an Alzheimer’s unit.
All doors to the facility have a code for those leaving, ensuring the safety of all patients.
Residents live in two-bed suites, and are encouraged to bring items from home to make their living quarters more comfortable.
There are five dining rooms and a cafe with set meal times, although the facility does cater to those with different eating schedules.
“We really try to make it as much like home as possible,” Bailey noted.
Like most nursing homes, Bay Bluffs offers a variety of social activities for residents such as crafts, ceramics and Wii games. Religious services are offered on a near-daily basis.