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Residents' Cries

October 18, 2009
by Kathleen Mears
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A couple of residents on this unit are unsettlingly vocal. They cry, yell, pound, or moan for hours. Medicine does not consistently quiet them down. Those of us residents who stay in or near our rooms are affected most by the noise. It is nerve-racking to hear it day after day after day. To calm the resident, the staff will take them out of their room. That diversion usually quiets them, but only for a little while. Sometimes family members hover trying to fix things. But some request their resident not be given additional narcotics, which makes the staff’s calming task more difficult.

One-on-one care will sometimes help these very vocal residents. But we can only wonder what is upsetting them. All we hear is them saying they are cut off from everyone. We know that one-on-one care is very difficult to give continuously. Most of us residents can only listen and wonder what could be done to assist a resident who is feeling so disrupted to feel better. I do not think residents should be drugged unnecessarily. But the rest of us do have the right to have a peaceful day.

Most of us residents do not know very much about what goes on with other residents. We do not know their diagnoses nor do we have the right to ask. All we can do is report the unceasing noise to the staff and hope that they will discover why a particular resident is so disruptive. Occasional outbursts as well as continuous yelling are upsetting not only to fellow residents but to visitors as well. However, staff that work on and off the hall may not notice the residents' cries.

On some days residents’ cries are more noticeable. There is no white noise or music in the hallway to blot out human sounds. Each day we all deal with sounds we would rather not hear. But as fellow residents all we can do to avoid the noise is to close our doors or change locations to get a respite.

Kathleen Mears


Kathleen Mears is a long-time blogger who has been a nursing home resident for 21 years. She is...



Thanks for your comments. With some residents pain could be the issue. But we all know pain is worsened by circumstances. Isolation does not help anyone if they cannot occupy themselves independently.

I also feel Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) may also affect residents' behaviors at this time of year.

The videos of family are a great idea.

Kathleen - love your column! Can you speak with the social worker getting about some dense wall hangings - woven cloths, etc, that might help absorb the noise? And could their families make some videos of the family talking with them so they don't feel so lonely? It is hard when someone has memory loss and doesn't remember their visits, etc. I usually ask if their pain level has adequately been addressed. Thank-you for sharing! -Susie

Hi Kathleen, Ralph again from Melbourne, when I was doing my research in nursing homes in AUstralia - we had to undertake our residents group in an open area and there was another resident, not in our group, moaning and shouting, and I tried to be helpful to her, and it was only when another said loudly, "Oh be quiet!" and said to me we have to put up with that all day everyday I realised that this can be a real strain on other residents - and while it may be fine to expect people to put up with this in a hospital and lone term care this could be really awful. I think the ideas of sound absorbing building materials is really important as some way to addressing noise, we have just designed a facility here where we have put a lot of attention into noise management and acoustics - because this is so often ignored. Thanks for keeping us all aware of realities of life inside. Ralph