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Making friends in long-term care

February 19, 2013
by Kathleen Mears
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When I came to this facility, I did not know quite what to think. I knew many residents had cognitive impairments and I wondered how that would affect me. The behavior of some residents frightened me and I stayed away from them. I wondered if I would ever find a resident to talk to.

I said hello to residents in the hallway or in the dining room. But I found no one with whom I could have an in-depth, intellectual conversation.

My niece usually asks me if there are any new residents with whom I can converse. My usual answer is, "Not really." She tries not to react because she knows I keep myself busy.

I talk with some staff when they are free. But since they're usually busy that happens infrequently. When residents have asked me to visit their rooms, I have. But the rooms are semi-private, small and navigating them in my power chair is challenging.

Although I do not want to be alone all the time, I do enjoy my privacy. I spend several hours a day working on the computer and lose track of time, especially when I am writing.

Before I came to this facility, I had a private room and could pretty much do what I wanted. Being assigned a roommate was a major adjustment. I cannot say I always like having a roommate, but I have been able to get used to it. A roommate is only a bother when she interrupts my computer time or my sleep. Then, I am stuck since I cannot leave my room without assistance.

After two years, I have many resident acquaintances. Those who are more able to converse, like me, fill their days with things they enjoy. I chat with them at times, but I am careful not to interrupt them.

At a previous facility I had a five-year friendship with another female resident. I think it was a "situational friendship" since both of us felt a bit lost. We were both (fiftysomething) and had little in common with more elderly residents. Although we chatted with everyone, talking with each other was more pleasant.

When she became independent enough, she moved out. I was pleased for her, but I knew I would miss her very much. So I decided to rely on myself and avoid friendships with residents. I feel stronger relying on myself. Also, several times residents here have gone home or moved to another facility.

In September, a fortysomething female resident left to move in with her sister. On the day she left, I said, "Goodbye and good luck." I was surprised that she did not smile or wave. I thought it would be a happy day for her. But I guess I had no idea what might be on her mind.

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Kathleen Mears

www.ltlmagazine.com/blog/kathleen-mears

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