Nursing Home Love Story #5: The New Roommate

I settled down to talk to Pearl, eager to hear how she was faring in her new room.

Her voice was strained.

“Well, she’s not rummaging through my closet, like Beatrice did. But she told me everybody likes me better than her.”

“It makes you uncomfortable.”

“Yes! And she won’t talk to me.”

We debated the pros and cons of her past and current roommates for a while.

“You know,” I said, “this reminds of the time I worked in an office that had cubicles, and my computer faced the computer of a woman who was always making negative comments. I spoke to my supervisor about her, and my supervisor was into the Japanese art of feng shui. Have you ever heard of that?

Pearl shook her head.

“The basic idea is that you arrange furniture in a room to create the best flow of energy.” I shrugged to indicate my skepticism. “She told me to hang a mirror on the wall between me and my cubicle buddy, so that my energy would bounce back to me and her energy would stay on her side of the cubicle wall. It sounded like a bunch of hooey to me, but I gave it a try and it worked! It was like a magic force field. I’m wondering if something like that might help you too.”

She seemed amused.

I spied the photo of her husband, whom I knew she missed terribly.

“You see that photo of John?”

“Yes,” she replied, brightening immediately.

“Maybe we could say that his energy is bouncing back to you and shielding you from her negativity.”

“That sounds good.”

Pearl looked hopeful, enlisting her husband’s assistance from above.

“Why don’t we see how that goes, and we can always consider changing rooms again if that doesn’t work out.”


Her voice was stronger and more determined now that she had two protectors and a path.

I ran into her in the hallway later that week.

“Things are much better now,” she told me. “I didn’t think it was going to help, but the magic force field is working.”

Eleanor Feldman Barbera, Ph.D., is a psychologist, speaker, educator and a leading expert on aging, behavioral health and caregiving.