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Resident life during the first summer holiday

May 31, 2011
by Kathleen Mears
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I always face Memorial Day weekend with a sense of trepidation. Since I moved to a nursing home I have spent 16 of these “first of summer” holidays on my own. My family and friends do visit, but usually before the holiday, since they are involved with vacation or other events on the actual Memorial Day.

I usually cross my fingers (mentally) and hope there will be enough aides to care for us. It is really a concern since I need so much assistance.

While most aides want to be off, I have noticed the same aides seem to work most holidays. Residents are pleased to see them because we know they want to be here. They share their holiday menus and plans with us and sometimes bring us goodies. In my experience, residents who cooperate with the aides make it an easier work holiday for them.

One Memorial Day two nurses had to work 24 hours straight. They were either filling in for other nurses who wanted to be off, or stayed because people called off. They tried to smile their way through it even though they were tired. I hated the fact that they were “stuck,” but was also grateful they were there to care for us.

Over the years I have noticed my fellow residents react differently to the holiday. Some look forward to outings for cookouts or picnics with family. Other residents get strangely quiet. One resident friend routinely refused to attend her family's get together. In some ways I think she felt she was imposing on them. But then she shared that she preferred to stay in the quiet environment of the nursing home.

Some residents become riled up on holidays feeling alone or abandoned by their families and angry because facility life is so different from their former lives at home. But other residents make the best of it and participate in whatever activities are planned.

Like everyone else I would love to be with my family. But staff is my extended family and I am glad to see them on the holiday.

I do depend on myself to get through the holiday weekend. I plan to watch movies on DVD or TV series marathons to catch up on episodes I have missed. I have realized that holiday programmers schedule shows for those of us who are alone.

Despite staff shortages on this Memorial Day weekend, I had several nice visits in the dining room with a resident's wife while she fed her husband his lunch. We are close in age and have become friends during her visits in the last few months. It has been a pleasant surprise to befriend resident family members when our lives come together in a long-term care facility. Many of these friendships last long after their loved ones pass away.

Memorial Day weekend gives me the opportunity to take a mental vacation by exploring the Internet or to write to my heart's content with few staff to interrupt.

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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...