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A day in Holly's world

November 10, 2014
by Kathleen Mears
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When Holly (pseudonym) came to this facility a little over a year ago, I knew little about her. I saw she used a walker to ambulate. Some days she walked with ease and other days she moved with great difficulty. At times she had to be pushed in a wheelchair. Back then she lived on the front hall. But she could never remember her room’s location or number.

Holly appears to be in her early 50s, but she might be younger. She had a stroke that left her with some mobility problems and no short-term memory.

Since changing my seat in the dining room, I now see Holly's comings and goings. She was a nurse, is pretty and seems to be very sweet. Whenever she speaks to me, it is as if we have met for the first time. With no short-term memory, everyone is a stranger to Holly after a few minutes pass.

At breakfast the other day Holly was crying. She does this periodically and it usually appears that she is crying for no reason. I wonder if some part of her is aware that none of us are familiar to her. Maybe that is what triggers her anxiety.

Holly also carries a large purse with her. But since there was no room for it on her table, her aide put her purse on the floor. Holly sawthat it was safe and secure. However, a few minutes later Holly thought her purse was gone. Although she was reminded her purse was on the floor beside her, she still began to cry.

To calm her, an aide asked our resident computer guy to play Holly's favorite song on his laptop. She began to sing along to "Rockin’ Robin" and stopped crying. It is amazing that her music is not lost to her.

After a few minutes, however, Holly looked for her purse and started to cry again. Several aides and one nurse told Holly she was disrupting the other residents' breakfast. She was told if she did not stop crying she would have to leave the dining room.  A nurse told me that using this confrontational approach sometimes dries her tears. When Holly apologized for her behavior, she cried even harder. She was moved to the lobby where the nurses were passing medicine. Her tray was brought to her, she settled down and was able to eat.

Holly has shown me that my lot in life is not so miserable. I could almost feel her pain before breakfast. I think she felt like she had been abandoned somewhere. On days when my disability gets to me and my inability to move with strength or grace seems insurmountable, I think about Holly trying to perceive the world. Nothing, whether good or bad, stays in her memory. She needs almost constant reassurance to get through her day, which is difficult for most of us to fathom.


Kathleen Mears

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