Lean On Me

Margaret was a plump 54-year old woman who was skeptical about psychological services when I first approached her. Three sessions later she sat quietly on the edge of her bed, staring down at her legs, her feet not quite touching the floor.

“I can’t walk. Every time I try to stand up in physical therapy, my whole body starts to shake.” She began to tremble, shivers traveling from head to toe.

“What do you think is going on?”

She clenched her arms around her petite frame, steadying herself. “I don’t know. I guess I’m afraid.”

“Because of your falls?” She’d fractured first one foot and then, months later, the other.

“Yeah. The therapist says I shouldn’t worry, that he won’t let me fall.”

“Who’s your therapist?”

“Nakeem.” Nakeem was a reassuringly bear-like man.

“He’s good. I’ve known him for years.”

“Yeah. Logically I know he wouldn’t let me fall, but still…”

I looked around her room, which was strewn with religious pamphlets. I pointed to the Bible prominently displayed on her tray table. “Where is God in all of this?”

Margaret’s gaze followed my finger and rested on the Bible. I watched as her face lost its tension. “That’s what I’m doing wrong! I’m putting my faith in Nakeem instead of in God! I know what I need to do now.” She appeared energized, rejuvenated.

Later that day I was writing notes at the nursing station and Margaret called out to me. “I did it!”

I looked up, startled. “You did?”

“Yep! I walked twice. Nakeem couldn’t believe it, but I could. I knew I could do it.”

“That’s awesome!” I told her.

Three weeks later, Margaret walked out the door of the nursing facility and headed home.

8 thoughts on “Lean On Me”

  1. Thanks for your comments, SeniorSafari and airick18. It's transformations like this that make nursing home work so satisfying for me as a psychologist.

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  2. This is an interesting story. It reminded me of some research I read about older, black, Hurricane Katrina survivors. New Orleans is my hometown. Research at the University of North Texas states, “Without exception, the findings indicate that this population coped with Katrina and its aftermath through reliance on a Higher Power.” It explains further that the relationship with a Higher Power was not necessarily connected with church membership. This is important because many people who are spiritual are not religious in the church-going sense.

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  3. Thanks for your comment, Frances. I often talk to spiritually-minded residents about the possible "purpose" for them of spending time in a nursing home. I think it helps people not only to turn to God for assistance in getting them through their nursing home days, but to also to think God has a reason for them to be there, a life mission to carry out.

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  4. I love this story, such a great example of the power of listening, observation and empowering others. And I appreciate how you took your cues from the things (in this case, her faith) that mattered most to Margaret.

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  5. Thanks, Erin, for reading and commenting. I suppose it's an example of what my old supervisor used to say — "Be where the patient is at."

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