Even if that chapter number is 15, 20 or even the penultimate - when it comes to older adults entering or residing in residential and nursing care facilities this is not just an excuse for a euphemism roll call:
'the final chapter', ...
Residents and their families all too frequently find that care needs are not static. The book is far from complete and ready for review. Their health (and we had better add well-being) status changes constantly. A care home's ability to cope and meet an individual resident's care needs adequately in safety without comprising other residents and staff must be continually evaluated. A person's condition may improve psychologically and yet their physical health calls for more nursing care that is physically driven; or vice versa. Trying to anticipate care needs what can be several years in advance is very difficult.
It is one of those intangible questions - as to how many care homes carry dual nursing registrations and so will be able to provide not only the current level of care, but future elderly mentally infirm care needs if required. The reasoning being that an internal move is far less traumatic than finding a new home? So, what is the state of care moves?
then we know nothing.
What might this tell us about an individual's health career and the health career - likely care trajectory - of conditions such as dementia?
Of course our assessments are, and can only be determined (a keyword if there ever was one) in the here and now. This is the priority, while also trying to anticipate the future if we possibly can.
There is undoubtedly a great need for research here. Research that spans the many care dimensions which residents, their families, care home staff and other multidisciplinary team members must balance. These include quality of life, physical, mental and spiritual care, economics, demand and supply and our very notions of care quality and holistic care.
Only then - for all unique individuals - can we write an epilogue that befits each of those preceding chapters.
Image: M.C. Escher crystal ball