Regina and I were sitting alone in her room with the door closed.
“I was thinking about John last night.” Tears began to well in her eyes.
“Yes?” I was immediately alert. Regina had avoided discussing her husband’s death for the past three months of psychotherapy.
Suddenly the door opened and the day shift aide poked her head into the room. Regina and I both jumped in our seats.
“Sorry,” the aide said to me, and looked at Regina. “Do you need to be changed? I’m leaving in a few minutes.”
“No, I’m okay, thanks.” Regina tried to look composed, but I was eager for the aide to go before our moment was completely lost.
“Okay, hon. See you tomorrow.” The room was quiet again.
“So you were saying… about your husband?”
“Yes. Well, it was such a shock. I really didn’t expect it. He was taking care of me, you know.” Her voice shook. “He was always the strong one.”
She began to cry, and I looked around for a box of tissues. Seeing none, I went into the bathroom, unwound a few rounds of toilet paper, reconsidered, and unwound some more.
“Thanks.” She took the wad of toilet tissue and pressed it to her moist eyes before blowing her nose.
The door opened, startling us again. The new evening nurse, seeing me, knocked on the open door. “Just doing rounds!” she said, staring at Regina’s reddened face. “Everything okay?”
“I’m the psychologist. It’s fine. Thanks.”
“Okay. Just checking.” She closed the door and we could hear her continuing her rounds down the hall.
Regina and I looked at each other.
“It’s hard to get privacy around here, isn’t it?” I commented.
She nodded. “They call this a nursing Home, but who would walk into your home without knocking?”
“It drives me crazy. I know they’re just doing their jobs, but still, it only takes a moment to knock on the door.”
“You’re right. They should knock.”
“It’s bad enough I’ve got to live in this tiny room, with a roommate, and staff coming in and out all the time. The least they could do is knock on the door!”
Her voice was raised, and I could see that the high emotions about her husband had shifted to outrage at this indignity. Despite this transfer of emotions, she did have a point. “You’re not the only resident who’s said this to me. I don’t think most of the staff realize how it affects the people living here. They get so caught up in taking care of their work, they forget they’re walking into people’s homes.”
“You should tell them. The staff need to remember these rooms are our homes now.”