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The struggle for joy

December 21, 2015
by Kathleen Mears
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My sister's entire face lit up several days ago when she said they were decorating the facility for Christmas. Unfortunately, I could feel my face dropping when she said it. I wonder if she noticed.

About a week before Thanksgiving many of the residents changed. Like almost everyone at this time of year, they are sleepier and hungrier than usual. It is hard to get them awake. They have to be cajoled to come to a meal or to daily snack times. I watch as some walk slower than usual. Some seem to be in pain even though many are really too young to be experiencing many of the effects of aging.

I wonder if the holiday decorations cause residents to feel a bit lonesome. I know it can be hard to feel festive and upbeat when you are living in an institutional setting with more than 40 others.

But, at least living here we are not totally alone. Sometimes the staffing is tricky over the holidays. But I have always found that most nurses and aides know how important their jobs are–-especially during the holidays.

In this day and age we wish someone Merry Christmas and then wonder if we should have said Happy Holidays. The winter solstice celebration preceded Christianity and other religions. The winter festivities are supposed to raise the moods of those who celebrate.

Each of us has difficulties all year. There are family and work problems, and many times health problems. Some have had a loved one die in the past year and their holidays are forever changed.

I have found that I get through the holidays without feeling a loss if I make myself responsible for my own happiness and joy. For me, that means taking care of my body and my soul. Some part of every day I spend praying. When I do that I feel I help myself and others. Regardless of your beliefs, spending time in silent contemplation eases the mind and does wonders for the soul.

It is also good to give thanks for what we have and remember that others--many of them--do not even have a warm place to sleep. When we residents complain about the quantity or blandness of the nursing home's food, we would do well to remember many in this world go to bed hungry--every night.

Being grateful is a better way to live. Thinking about others and trying to make them feel better and happier positively impacts our happiness and well-being.

So, in order to be responsible for my own happiness, I play the part of being joyful. Doing that does not make me feel any worse, and it usually causes me to feel a whole lot better.


Kathleen Mears

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