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Roving counselors

February 1, 2016
by Kathleen Mears
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On a Saturday afternoon last June, I was using my laptop in bed when there was a knock at my door. I was surprised when a young woman came in saying she was the counselor who would be seeing residents. She asked if we could chat. I told her a little about myself. I felt I was overly chatty, but blamed it on my weekend loneliness. A few minutes later the psychologist came in and introduced herself. She asked if I had ever received counseling and I told her I had many times. But I told her I have had no counseling since I came here four and half years ago.

When they asked me if I would like to get counseling, I said maybe. They both gave me a funny look. I explained that that I did not like the fact that some facility counselors insisted on dropping in on me without notice. I told them I am busy on my desktop computer and laptop most of the day and that I structure my days. I told them if I could know the day, the approximate time and the length of the session, I might consider counseling.

They said they would be in the facility Wednesday and Thursday and could see me Wednesday. I told them we could try it. That following Wednesday my sister visited and we went out for several hours. The next day while I was composing a letter on my computer, the counselor knocked and asked if I would see her. Even though I was having a computer problem I wanted to fix, I asked her in anyway.

As I talked to the counselor I started to feel uneasy. Thirty minutes later I glanced at the clock and saw that it was 11 a.m. I realized I had missed a care conference scheduled at 10. Upset by my forgetfulness, I asked the counselor if we could end the session, and she did. I ended up rescheduling my care conference.

Since I was uncomfortable, I told the assistant director of nursing I did not want counseling on any type of regular basis. I told her I had gotten used to not having it and felt I kept my own counsel pretty well. It is difficult to be a nursing home resident and have a mental health professional stop by to get a snapshot of your emotional well being that day.

I know some residents here gladly go with the counselor and are eager to leave the room and go anywhere to talk. But, for counseling I want it to be in my room by myself–or somewhere else equally private.

One Wednesday the psychologist knocked and asked why I did not want to get counseling. I explained my reasons. She told me she would be here on Wednesdays and could see me sometime before lunch. I told her I would see her on her next visit.

Since then, the psychologist usually sees me weekly. But there are times when she has had another commitment. Early on, we exchanged e-mail addresses so she can let me know if she cannot be here, and I can do the same. Even though I know our arrangement is not a nursing home norm, it makes me feel better.


Kathleen Mears

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