Eleanor Feldman Barbera, Ph.D.

Many of us in long-term care think of our jobs as a calling. We handle the day-to-day tasks and the business as usual but also get a lot of energy and joy out of taking our work one step further. Here are some actions I’ve taken that have enriched my patients and my role as a psychologist. 

1.  Set up Facebook accounts so residents can stay connected with their friends and family members.

2.  Searched through their charts to find out the outcome of a medical consult.

3.  Followed up with the nurse if the recommended course of action wasn’t pursued.

4.  Cleaned out messy closets and drawers to give the resident some sense of control.

5.  Searched for missing items (and found 90% of them!).

6.  Attended one patient funeral early on in my nursing home career, where I sobbed from the moment I entered the room until the moment I left. Never again have I gone.

7.  Tracked down and reunited missing family members.

8.  Notified the attending physician regarding cognitive and other changes that just didn’t seem right to me, which often resulted in a life-saving hospitalization.

9.  Brought previously refusing residents down to activities and started a pattern of involvement with the recreation department.

10. Mediated disagreements between two residents, sometimes without their knowing it.

11. Mediated disagreements between residents and staff members, also sometimes without their knowing it.

12. Filched “back-up” bedpans from the supply closet for a resident who became anxious at the thought of being without one, and hid them in her wardrobe.

13. Acted as liaison between family members and the psychiatrist.

14. Moved my residents’ urgent psychiatric consults to the front of the psychiatrist’s consult folder and left notes with important details of their condition that I was pretty sure would otherwise get overlooked.

15. Wrote approximately 706 messages in the maintenance log (so far) to fix items in my residents’ rooms.

16. Ordered Harry and David’s fruit-of-the-month club using my credit card (to be reimbursed from the resident’s account) for someone with no involved family and a hankering for fruit like his dad used to get.

17. Dialed family members on my cell phone for residents with no telephone who yearned for a conversation that wasn’t held in front of the nursing station.

18. Printed out photos that were emailed to me from distant family members and put them up in the residents’ rooms.

19. Arranged with the porter to turn the resident’s television station back to her beloved Channel 9 after the porter watched the religious program on Channel 11 while cleaning the room.

20. Blogged, with her enthusiastic consent, about an octogenarian resident’s amazing artwork I’d discovered crammed into her top drawer.

21. Held the hand of a resident who was dying.

22. Purchased acupressure shoe insoles upon the recommendation of a resident who was very pleased I’d taken his advice.

23. Read jokes to a resident who couldn’t always speak but who enjoyed humorous stories.

24.  Wrote down the names of songs a 104-year old lady wanted to have sung at her funeral.

25. Discovered a fondness for every single resident I’ve encountered.

Do you do extra or do you know of someone who goes above and beyond the call their job description — whatever the job might be?  Please let us know in the comments section below.


Eleanor Feldman Barbera, PhD, the author of The Savvy Resident’s Guide, is an accomplished speaker and consultant with over 16 years of experience as a psychologist in long-term care. This blog complements her award-winning website, MyBetterNursingHome.com, which has more on how to create long-term care where EVERYBODY thrives.