In my more than 20 years living in nursing homes I have watched numerous times what occurs when a resident dies. If the family is there, they will usually return at a later more discrete time and remove their loved ones items. But, occasionally, the resident's things are left behind.
Mary* passed away a few weeks ago somewhat unexpectedly, for a resident with health problems. Her family came in afterwards but for several days her belongings remained in her side of the room. I wondered if the family would ever pick them up. A few days later, I thought they had been donated and had not yet been moved.
No matter what happened, the fact that the room looked unchanged made me feel sad. Most residents here have a mishmash of furniture, storage shelves and totes containing their possessions and sometimes extra clothing. Most men's rooms are sparse, but the female residents' rooms have an eclectic array of items that the women use to make their rooms cozy.
A few days after Mary died a younger female resident moved out of that room. The next day, an older female resident moved in. Each time I passed that room it appeared to look the same as when Mary was alive. The room looked transient—much like Mary who had moved in a few weeks before and never quite got settled.
A week or so ago I asked an aide why Mary's things were still in her room. She told me those things were not Mary's. She assured me they belonged to the female resident who now lives on that side of the room.
I have to admit I was somewhat surprised. I go up and down that hallway at least once a day and I usually know when an item has been moved. But I thought if Mary's family donated her plastic shelves and containers to the facility, maybe they were given to the female resident who now lives in that room.
It looked like a seamless transition. However, most long-term nursing home residents realize they can be moved to another room—many times during their stay.
I suppose if residents stay somewhat transient it could make moving to different rooms a bit easier for them.