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A resident's memento

June 20, 2011
by Kathleen Mears
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Before I was a nursing home resident I had been a jewelry collector. Since my jewelry was eventually stored offsite, I bought myself a few new items after moving into the facility 15 years ago. To me, jewelry has always been art and wearing it made me feel better. However, after making quick trips to the ER over the years or being admitted and having no one to safeguard my jewelry, I decided it was not practical for me to have much of it anymore.

I locked almost all of it up at first. Then when I had to move last fall, I gave most of it to my sister for safekeeping. Despite the risk, I kept a few inexpensive pieces of jewelry. I also had my father's diamond ring, which mother and I gave him for his 60th birthday. I considered having it made into a necklace for me, but I ended up keeping it as a memento.

The ring was strategically placed in my wheelchair backpack in a compartment that was seldom opened. I was relieved each time I had a friend or aide check to see that it was still there. But I always knew it could end up disappearing.

When I moved to this facility, I had a difficult time keeping track of my things. Staff warned me that some residents took belongings because they do not know any better. It was not long before things began to disappear. Once it was a particular brand of lotion; another time it was return address labels. Some things vanished as soon as I bought them while others were never taken.

In January I got a two drawer locking file cabinet to keep small electronic items and necessary things. It did not take me long to realize that mostly everything should be locked up.

In February, when I was told I was getting a roommate, I had little time to consolidate my things, inventory them and pack them away. Even with a helper it took time and I had to memorize where everything was. The facility kindly stored some things in locked areas, but I still found it difficult to keep track.

With my roommate's resident friends having access to our room, more of my things went missing. I tried to cut down on the traffic but my roommate did have a right to visitors.

Having things disappear was upsetting—and expensive. It was also disconcerting to ask an aide to get an item from my second drawer only to have her discover it missing. I began to feel like I was losing my mind because I could not check to see where any of this stuff was.

The weirdest item that disappeared was a shoehorn. I got it to help the aides put my shoes on more easily. When it arrived, my name went on in, and it was put in my top drawer. The next morning I asked an aide to get it from the drawer. She looked and looked, but it was not there. I never got to use it.

In April I hired a local college student as a driver/PCA. One day while she was straightening my room, I asked her to help me clean out my backpacks. When I checked on my jewelry items, I found the inexpensive rings and bracelets were gone. My picture wallet had all compartments unzipped.

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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...