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Finding a haven

January 4, 2016
by Kathleen Mears
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We heard Donovan* was homeless before he arrived here. They put him in a room on the front hall. But the next morning as I rolled around I saw that he was sitting in a chair covered with a blanket, outside of his room. He appeared to be trying to make himself small under that blanket, and he looked frightened.

The first few days the nurse manager and other staff talked with him trying to help him adjust. I wondered how this nursing home could be scarier than living on the street and not knowing where you would get your next meal.

As Donovan peeked out from under the blanket I noticed he had kind eyes and I hoped that he would start to feel comfortable soon. In the next few days they switched his room and the chair disappeared from the hallway. Donovan was sleeping in his bed.

He came to all meals and as soon as the meal was over, he started picking up trays and proceeded to clean off the tables. One day after breakfast I thanked him for cleaning up the dining room. He told me he had worked in a restaurant and he wanted the tables to be clean. He also said when he was an elementary school janitor he got used to cleaning up after messy little kids.

Donovan wore gloves when he cleaned in the dining room. In the beginning he used the available wipes to clean the tables. Eventually he coaxed housekeepers to give him rags with cleaning product on them to use.

I wondered when he would be told he could not clean in the dining room. Residents are allowed to remove their own trays, but they are not usually allowed to clean up in the dining room. However, a couple of residents cleanup the dining room periodically and help out when the facility is short on staff.

A few weeks ago I noticed Donovan was having trouble getting around and using his walker. Then, I saw he no longer cleaned up the dining room after meals. The nurse manager had asked him not to.

I was concerned that Donovan might feel strange because they did not want him to help out in the dining room. But, he seems to have adjusted to it well. And, he has learned how to help out in other ways.

* a pseudonym



Kathleen Mears

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