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Getting Acquainted, Then and Now

February 15, 2009
by Kathleen Mears
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Within the first few days of coming to this facility I must have met almost all of the staff. I remember that I was pretty down because of the move to a nursing home and I was feeling overwhelmed by the experience. But every time I started to feel lonely another smiling face knocked at my door. I thought the staff was very brave coming to visit me in the first few days. The dietary and activities visits were required, but the rest were just the staff being nice, I guess. When the director of nursing stopped by, she asked me to tell her first if I had any difficulties with the nursing staff. That made an impression on me and I followed her advice. Even though she and I did not always agree, I knew that she would listen. I enjoyed the friendliness of the staff here.

But this facility is a large place and I can remember getting lost riding from unit to unit in my power chair. I wondered how I would get used to seeing so many people every day. There were 96 residents and then all the staff who worked here. It had been a while since I had rubbed shoulders with over 200 people each day. The admissions coordinator back then gave me a small gift basket of goodies. The best thing was a gift certificate to the beauty shop. For a worn-out woman away from her warm fuzzies that was like manna from heaven.

Back then they put welcoming signs on the doors of new residents so that other residents could get familiar with their names. It also helped to orientate new residents and assist them to find their room. The residents first and last names were placed on a name plate beside their door. The hallway walls were frequently decorated with the resident's names arranged in a colorful way. Early on I sat in the hallway waiting for dinner reading those names and matching them with the faces that moved by.

At one point there was a welcoming committee that sent cards to new residents. I was never a welcomer because my natural inclination would be to allow a resident time to get used to their new environment and living situation. Many times family members ask me questions about my computer, as well as what residents can do because I am here when office staff is not. I am glad to talk to and assist residents and their families. But if a resident prefers to be alone I abide by their wishes

Since the H.I.P.P.A. Law came into effect several years ago many things changed. Resident names are no longer posted in the hallways as decorations and the resident roster was removed. That made it more difficult for visitors, pastors, and friends to find residents. They must go to the office or the nurses’ stations to get a resident's room number. Name plates on resident rooms have only their first initial and last name. That makes it more difficult for us to learn the names of new residents, particularly those in rehab. Privacy is very important but the strong rules have caused a more closed community within the walls. Maybe someday things will change to allow more of a community feeling inside nursing homes again.

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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...