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A transitional long-term care Thanksgiving

November 29, 2010
by Kathleen Mears
| Reprints

This was my 15th Thanksgiving holiday weekend in long-term care. Most of them have been spent with the staff of the facility. I always miss my sister, my only close family, even though we usually get together around the time of the holiday. I also miss the Thanksgivings of old in my parents' house and the preparations I made when I was living on my own.

On the day before Thanksgiving here the residents were behaving more strangely than usual. The staff thought that those who were going out were excited, and that those who were not were expressing their frustration.

On Thanksgiving morning the staff wished us Happy Thanksgiving in a bright manner and some residents barely grunted a response. Nonetheless, the staff tried to make our day as festive as possible.

I was doing all right and kept busy by writing. I had planned to do Christmas shopping online, but I changed my mind because I was afraid I might overspend since I felt homesick. And "homesick" defines my feelings like no other. I had a gentle pain in my upper chest along with the feeling that something was missing.

As I was writing I saw a male resident leave with a relative. Earlier he would not get a shower and refused to get ready. He told the aides that he was not going. But he did go after all, as did other residents who went to family Thanksgiving celebrations. All of them knew they would need to return here, which may have relieved some and caused others to be desolate.

Thanksgiving dinner here was at noon and held in the dining room. All of us residents ate together, even those who have to be fed. Even with some residents gone there were still many at the table. An early squabble caused one resident to leave but after that the mood calmed and most seemed to enjoy a very good dinner. Several times I had tears in my eyes. I had never eaten Thanksgiving dinner with this many people. As I watched the staff watching us, I appreciated how hard they had worked to make our day special.

As far as my living situation goes, I am taking up more than half of a semi-private room, and wondering how to decorate for Christmas. There is no room for last year's tree. I must find a smaller one or some other suitable decoration. Something small might fit and the holiday sparkle will certainly please my psyche.

My sister and my niece came to visit Friday and brought delicious Thanksgiving goodies. We considered using the dining room but decided not to since it is usually busy. Instead my room and its bedside table were festive enough for our treat time and visit.

The holiday weekend itself was a bit more quiet than usual. There wasn’t any visiting family present. I have done some writing and a lot of thinking. I suppose most of us experience anxiety during the holidays. I grew up in a warm, close-knit family. My parents, my sister, and I enjoyed the holidays together. That was the most important thing to us. We also celebrated a spiritual and charitable event. It was a simpler time.

In my year of transition I have had to rethink all the ways I have done things. I plan to continue to simplify my life and know that having more is not being more. Continuing to adapt will help me grow and allow me to be happier and to experience peace.

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Kathleen Mears

www.ltlmagazine.com/blog/kathleen-mears

Kathleen Mears has been a nursing home resident in Ohio for 20 years. She is an incomplete...