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She’s our plant lady no more

May 20, 2013
by Kathleen Mears
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A little over a year ago I wrote about Melinda (pseudonym), a resident who has purchased and planted vegetable and flower seeds each spring for years. Several staff members have purchased her plants and say they grow really well.

When I first saw plants in the back dining room window sills two years ago, I learned Melinda was growing them. I marveled that she was able to find a way to bring things to life while living in a facility.

The last week of February, Melinda already had plants sitting in the dining room covered with plastic. That same week the health department came to survey. A day later I was surprised that Melinda's seedlings were gone. When I asked what happened, I was told was surveyor saw a resident with dementia eat dirt from a seedling container. Then the surveyor requested the seedlings be moved.

The plants were taken to the basement and, with little light, they died. With no plants to tend Melinda was not out of her room as much. Soon she became ill and was admitted to the hospital. After she was there for a while, she was sent to another facility to recuperate.

While Melinda was gone, some aides commented about her being ill. I suggested that when her trademark seedlings were removed she may have become depressed, which could have led to her illness. None of the aides commented but I saw a knowing look in their eyes.

Melinda came back and was getting therapy and using a walker for a while. But she fell and that has frightened her. She now moves in the hallways in a wheelchair. When asked if she will have any plants this year, Melinda says she is not allowed to grow them anymore.

I always wondered if growing seedlings in the dining room would pass health department regulations. But I thought someone bent the rules a little to give a resident with little else to do the opportunity to exercise her talent.

Perhaps the facility should see if Melinda could spend a few hours a week at the greenhouse. She would enjoy her time there and she could possibly share her knowledge about growing things.

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Kathleen Mears

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