The Independence Cart

One of the greatest challenges facing the residents of nursing homes is their dependence upon others to meet their needs. I often work with them on coming to terms with this unavoidable fact of life, and to find ways in which they can retain control over their situation. After numerous discussions about the frustrations of relying on busy staff or family members to purchase items for them, I began to consider the merits of an Independence Cart.

An Independence Cart is a roving store on wheels. Imagine if twice a week the residents could buy stationery, pens, stamps, phone cards, eyeglass repair kits, personal care items, or order a birthday present for a grandchild. It would give them some means of accessing the goods available in the outside world, and free up time that good-hearted staff and family members spend on burnout-inducing errands.

I once worked in a nursing home with a candy and soda cart that traveled from floor to floor. Items purchased in bulk were sold at discounted prices, and the money from the venture funded resident activities. Residents helped the recreation department leaders stock and staff the cart. It was a dietary disaster, but a practical and financial success. I believe that this concept, taken in the right direction, could be successful in every way. Dr. Barbera is an author and a licensed psychologist consulting in long-term care facilities in the New York City area. She frequently lectures on subjects related to psychology, aging, and nursing homes. Dr. Barbera is available for private consulting with organizations, institutions, and individuals around eldercare issues. Visit her personal blog at

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