The Semi-Private Nursing Home Room

Posted by Dr. El - February 22, 2011 - Anecdotes, Transitions in care - 4 Comments

Viola’s face was beet red, and she was hoarse from shouting.  “How can they do this to me?  I’ve been in this room for months and now they want me to move?!”

“I know, you’ve gotten used to it here,” I tried to explain.  “But this is the short-term floor and you’re not short-term anymore.”
“I can’t live with anyone else!  I need my own space!”
“You can put your name on the list for a private room as soon as you get there.  In the meantime, I know the lady you’ll be sharing with — she’s very nice.”

Viola settled back on her bed, throwing up her hands.  Her voice was resigned.  “I guess I don’t have much choice.”


The following week, I was surprised to see Viola leaning on her walker by the nursing station on the long-term unit, chatting with an aide.  She’d always been resting when I’d visited her on the short-term floor.  I followed her to her new room for our session.

“Lydia,” she called to her roommate, “don’t mind me, I’m just going to close the curtain for a moment while I talk with my doctor.”

Lydia smiled, waved, and continued watching the Spanish station on her TV.

“She doesn’t understand much English,” Viola reassured me, “so it’s okay to talk in here.  What do you want to talk about?”

I gestured toward the privacy curtain.  “So, how’s it going?”

“It’s good.  We look out for each other.  She watches TV all the time, though.”  She wrinkled her nose. “I try to spend most of my time out of the room.”

“Have you been getting to activities?”  She’d previously resisted my recommendation to try out some of the events offered by the recreation department.

“Oh yes,” she laughed.  “I just got back from hearing that group, The Wrigley Brothers.  They really know how to put on a show!  And tonight I’m going down for bingo.  I’m going to try my luck.”