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When a resident leaves

October 17, 2011
by Kathleen Mears
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When Daisy (pseudonym) left the facility, it was with little fanfare. She had been here almost a year and was in her late 20s. Daisy told me she had mental health problems most of her adult life, and she was also severely obese. Even though she had lost some weight here, I could tell it was difficult for her to walk a long distance.

A year ago Daisy was living on her own. But in the past she had been in and out of facilities. Some were a good fit and others were not. After she came here, Daisy had a succession of roommates and had difficulties with most of them. She became friends with one roommate, but because they argued, they could not share a room. Until that friend left a few months ago, they spent most the day together and went their separate ways at bedtime.

Daisy frequently eloped from the facility. When she did, several staff went outdoors to coax her back to the building. I think she wanted the autonomy to just go out. However, there are rules here even for those who have that autonomy.

One morning after Daisy's sojourn outside the facility, I reminded her she was endangering herself and the staff when she ran off. I know on some level she understood that. But it did not seem to matter.

Frank, the facility dog, became her constant companion. He followed her around and slept on her bed. When she was on her good behavior, she could to take him outside for a walk. Some staff feels the dog will miss her. But Frank has been here long enough to know that residents and staff come and go. I am sure he can smell them long after they are gone.

Recently, Daisy was spending time on the computer in the TV room. It seemed she was really get into it and even had a Facebook page. But she complained that some male residents were watching porn on the computer. That started quite a discussion about a resident's right to view pornography on the computer in their own home. Even though one nurse felt residents had that right, Daisy certainly did not.

I wonder how Daisy will do in her new facility. She said she wanted counseling. But she also admitted it is difficult to find the right counselor. Daisy would benefit from something other than the typical nursing home environment, because she usually is able to do most of her own care. She also is intelligent and seems to care about people deeply.

Blending into institutional life is a strange experience. The only training I had came from elementary and high school. But our time at school was limited. Most of us never considered we would live in an institution for years.

When I wished Daisy good luck the other day, she told me another facility in a larger city may be able to help her. But she assured me that her stay there is only temporary, because she wants to come back here.

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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...