As of last week I have lived here 14 years. When I tell people that, they usually ask, "Are you leaving soon?” My answer is I will probably live here for the rest of my life. The second question is, "Do you like it there?" I say the nursing home is the best place for me to live right now. I explain that I came here because of economic and security issues and that those have not changed. I guess that means that I cannot say I love it here. But I do know that there are many long-term care facilities that would be a lot worse.
Many things have happened to me here, some of which I did not expect. With state vocational rehabilitation's assistance I was able to get adapted computer equipment so that I could work. Afterwards, they approached the facility's administrator regarding a job for me that resulted in me working here part time for four years. By using the Internet I have become more technologically informed.
Living here has allowed me to meet hundreds of people. If I had had them sign my room's walls, which I considered, I am sure that every wall would be covered and probably most of the ceiling.
I have learned to keep myself busy by using the computer, rolling around the facility to see what is going on, or going on outings. Here I am forced to deal with people whether I want to or not. I cannot get away from them for very long.
I have learned to deal with the facility's bureaucracy. In the beginning I took a mini manager's comment of, "I don't know," or "I was not here," as the brick wall I had to hit. But now I keep asking the question until I get an answer. I also know that being assertive enables me to get better care.
I have learned not to get too excited by the changes made here, because many times after a few months they change back to the old way.
Life here is still teaching me to discover the good things in people. Sometimes I overlook people's talents because as a perfectionist I expect a great deal from myself and others. I have learned another person's best may be different from mine, but their best is no less valuable.
Even the negative experiences of resident behaviors and constant wanderers have taught me that they need to keep moving. Even though we may not understand why, somewhere in their brain, moving must help them to survive and to pass their day.
I do hope that in the future nursing home owners and managers will take advantage of the experience and vision that some residents have and consider them to be useful in their planning.
I can still wish I lived in my home with familiar things. I can still wonder what kind of dog I would have, how long I would lie sunning myself on the chaise lounge, and how many mental trips I could plan.
But if I ever left here, I would take along the mental images of those I have met. How I wish I were an artist and could draw their faces on my wall. Then I could show them and tell each story.