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Making progress one step at a time

December 3, 2012
by Kathleen Mears
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I got to know Janeen (pseudonym) when she was my roommate more than a year ago. She has a clear, deep caramel complexion and piercing eyes. Her 5'9" height and frame are also commanding. Although I do not know her diagnosis, at times she is childlike, then at other times she shows the wisdom of the ages.

She told me tales of her rough life. I believe Janeen just did not fit into any category at school. She said she was not diagnosed as mentally retarded or developmentally disabled. Her mother is blind, lives an hour away, and seldom visits. But now, occasionally her sister comes and sometimes takes her home for a few days. Because of her unstable behavior, she seldom went out on activities’ excursions. Many times I wanted to invite her along on my outings. But fearing her episodes of bad behavior, I decided against it.

Janine is compulsive, but she is also clean and tidy. Her two maddening behaviors are moving furniture in the middle of the night and playing her radio very loud. I never got used to her middle of the night rearranging.  But to save my ears from her music, I bought her a small radio with a headset.

Since Janeen could do tasks for me and be rewarded, I told her I thought she could, with proper supervision, hold down a job. Because she knew I had experience working with vocational rehabilitation, she began to hope to train for employment.

After moving out of my room, she went on to have other roommates and also to be in a room by herself. She continually talked about getting a job. When she made any progress, she came and told me. I hoped she would get the chance to get some training that would get her out of the facility.

A few weeks ago, Janeen began training at the local Developmental Disabilities Center as a dishwasher. The plan is for her to work at a retirement facility eventually.

Janine is pleased that she is earning money while training and wants me to help her find another radio with a headset. Then, again, she can play her music as loud as she wants without disturbing anyone.

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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...