Skip to content Skip to navigation

Turning over a new leaf

December 6, 2015
by Kathleen Mears
| Reprints

Sally* (*a pseudonym) is a night shift aide whom I have written about previously. Unfortunately, there has been plenty of contention between us.

But, when I first came here, Sally was very good to me. I told her I felt management would not want her to spend extra time with me. But she was not concerned about it.

Five years ago when I was involuntarily discharged to this nursing home far from my home, I was shattered. I was defensive and afraid. Each of my comments should have been prefaced by saying "This resident is intense!"

That first Christmas I ordered small gifts for my sister, brother-in-law, and niece. When they arrived, Sally wanted to open them and I eventually let her. She put my gifts together. When my sister opened her gifts, a costume jewelry earring and a bottle of nail treatment were missing from their boxes. I was heartbroken and wondered what happened.

Seeking a reason, I thought Sally or one of her coworkers was responsible. Even though the gifts were not that expensive, I could not write it off to happenstance, and I was hurt. Sally even said she had not taken my gifts.

After that, Sally treated me differently. I have apologized to her in person and in writing. Things would improve but they did not change. In the intervening time, our relationship was testy. I tried ignoring her, not talking to her, and many times I wished I lived in another state.

Several times Sally said I was quite irritable. I decided to try to figure out what was causing it. I was not feeling like myself, so with my doctor's help I got off one medicine and cut back on some others. I started to feel better.

Sally told me many times I was too heavy and wasn’t easy to lift, and I winced. But she was right. I decided to watch what I ate and really stick to my diet. But despite the improving myself, my heart felt heavy because Sally and I could not get along. Living in nursing homes has changed me, but I did not want to start making enemies at my age.

A little over a month ago, I decided I wanted to try something different. One evening Sally was coming in at 7 p.m. to be my aide – and I was dreading it. When Sally answered my call light, I asked her how she was. She commented, "You do not really want to know." I told her if I did not want to know, I would not have asked. Then, she talked to me civilly and there were no harsh words.

That behavior has continued each time we were together. I tried very hard not to nitpick, be demanding, or ask for extra stuff. I figured anything was worth a try. Since I like this behavior on Sally's part, I positively reinforce it whenever I can.

Sally shared that when I told her I thought she had taken my Christmas gifts, it hurt her. She told me a few weeks ago, "I would never do that!" I now know how wrong I was to think she was a reason they were missing. Having things go missing feels like psychological rape. The only way I can deal with it is to forget it.

I am glad that Sally and I are now getting along. My life is less stressful and I am hoping hers is as well. In the last few months I have tried to be more conscious of how an aide would feel taking care of a grumpy me. I realized some aides perceived me in a different way than I intended. On life's road, smoothing out the bumps is why we are here.                                       



Kathleen Mears

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