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An apparent seamless transition

April 11, 2016
by Kathleen Mears
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In my more than 20 years living in nursing homes I have watched numerous times what occurs when a resident dies. If the family is there, they will usually return at a later more discrete time and remove their loved ones items. But, occasionally, the resident's things are left behind.

Mary* passed away a few weeks ago somewhat unexpectedly, for a resident with health problems. Her family came in afterwards but for several days her belongings remained in her side of the room. I wondered if the family would ever pick them up. A few days later, I thought they had been donated and had not yet been moved.

No matter what happened, the fact that the room looked unchanged made me feel sad. Most residents here have a mishmash of furniture, storage shelves and totes containing their possessions and sometimes extra clothing. Most men's rooms are sparse, but the female residents' rooms have an eclectic array of items that the women use to make their rooms cozy.

A few days after Mary died a younger female resident moved out of that room. The next day, an older female resident moved in. Each time I passed that room it appeared to look the same as when Mary was alive. The room looked transient—much like Mary who had moved in a few weeks before and never quite got settled.

A week or so ago I asked an aide why Mary's things were still in her room. She told me those things were not Mary's. She assured me they belonged to the female resident who now lives on that side of the room.

I have to admit I was somewhat surprised. I go up and down that hallway at least once a day and I usually know when an item has been moved. But I thought if Mary's family donated her plastic shelves and containers to the facility, maybe they were given to the female resident who now lives in that room.

It looked like a seamless transition. However, most long-term nursing home residents realize they can be moved to another room—many times during their stay.

I suppose if residents stay somewhat transient it could make moving to different rooms a bit easier for them.




At the end of Kathleen Mear's, she states "I suppose if residents stay somewhat transient it could make moving to different rooms a bit easier for them." 

WOW- what a sad commentary!  That not making your room feel like your home is somehow "better" because it will be easier when the resident (apparently inevitably) has to move.  I don't necessarily disagree with her statement- it probably does make moving easier. But the fact that we still think it's OK just to move people from room to room, from roommate to roommate, like they were inventory in a warehouse, and not people who LIVE in this nursing home-- a place they should be able to call home (if they want to), or at least a place that should stive to help people feel at home--is a really sad statement.  How often do the residents actually get to pick where and with whm they will live?  In most home, the answer is seldom. 

In a home that is truly adopting person-centered care practices, the process is different. Residents are invovled in this kind of decision making.  In the ideal world, all bedrooms would be private so no one is ever asked to move, unless they request it themselves.  But most of us don't live in that ideal world.  In communities with a preponderance of shared rooms (which I refuse to call semi-private), the residents understand that the care community needs to keep it's census high, and that that sometimes means people might be asked if they would be willing to move.  But it's how this process is handled that is different.  They might bring all the residents of a living area together to let the residents discuss different liviing arrangements, letting the residents decide where and with whom they each want to live. 


Where is the respect we should be showing our elders?

Kathleen Mears

Kathleen Mears has been a nursing home resident in Ohio for 20 years. She is an incomplete...