Seven life lessons from a nursing home worker

Paul Duncan, a blogger for Next Avenue, recently wrote this story about a man who works with elderly people in nursing homes in New York City.

“Being in the nursing home is tough. People weep and smell and drool. Sometimes you can go on the floor and hear a woman in her 90s scream, ‘I want Mommy.’”

So writes clinical psychologist Dr. Valery Hazanov in this insightful, moving article on published March 17. For the past eight months, Hazanov has been working as a psychotherapist with dying patients in nursing homes in New York City “to see what death looks and feels like — to learn from it.”

Hazanov shares the lessons he learned in his Vox:

Lesson No. 1: At the end, only the important things persist. “The world shrinks in the nursing home, and only a few things remain,” Hazanov writes.

Lesson No. 2: Having a routine is key to happiness. “Their routines are different but always involve some structure and internal discipline.”

Lesson No. 3: Old people have the same range of emotions as everyone else. “Denying that, because of our own discomfort, is one of the worst things we can do to old people.”

Lesson No. 4: Old people are invisible in American culture. “People at the nursing home like to watch TV. It’s always on. How strange, then, that there are no old people on TV.”

Lesson No. 5: The only distraction from pain is spiritual. “If for most of your life you are concerned with the mundane … then when you get old and feel a lot of pain, that’s going to be the only thing you’re going to think about.”

Lesson No. 6: If you don’t have kids, getting old is tough. “The saddest people I see in the nursing home are childless.”

Lesson No. 7: Think about how you want to die. “My father once told me … he would choose dying well over living well … a peaceful death feels like the ultimate reward. I think I am beginning to see his point.”


To read more, visit