Life Lessons Learned in a Nursing Rehabilitation Facility

This past summer and throughout the duration of this semester, I have had the privilege of working in two different nursing home/rehabilitation centers in the Chicagoland area.  Being a psychology major and having a criminal justice minor, I work with two psychologists and assist group therapy sessions for around 50 residents total.

(A map of nursing homes throughout the Chicagoland area.)

These facilities hold a variety of patients with physical ailments and mental issues. The Illinois Department of Public Health reports that over 100,000 patients are served in 1,000+ facilities in the state of Illinois. A common misconception is that nursing homes are just for “old people.” Anyone that cannot care for themselves can wind up in a nursing home, young and old. There are also convicted felons living in some of these facilities. Everyone has their own unique story, and prior to starting my internship there, I had a very small idea of what to expect.


Soon after starting, I quickly learned that this would sort of serve as a life-changing experience for me. I have heard so many interesting anecdotes and stories from all sorts of different people– young and old, healthy and sick. I have witnessed patients actively experiencing delusions and hallucinations. I have seen medical emergencies happen right in front of me. I have grown close to residents, only for them to pass away or be discharged a few weeks later. My psychology textbooks all came to life every time I went in to work.

This was my first time working with such a vulnerable group of people and even though I have only been there for six months, I feel like such a different person. Those struggling with mental illness, especially to the point that they are residing in a residential care facility, are so fragile, but they have so much wisdom to share. I would be sitting in the group therapy session and someone would say something so astounding that I had to take my notebook out and write it down.

No matter the circumstance that ended them up in a nursing home, I felt obligated to share these anonymous quotes coming from our elders… people that have gained so much respect and have helped pave paths of success for us. Consider how you would process hearing these quotes.


“I didn’t know hell had a basement.”

“Power is not given, it’s taken.”

“I used to be physically and mentally weak, but I used my facilities, my friends and my resources to strengthen my body and my mind.”

“Your priorities are set when you bring them into your perspective.”

“As a society, let’s try to keep it together and grow better together.”

“I have more of my life behind me than I do ahead of me. So what do I do with that?”

“Betrayal is common, not rare.”

“I could have saved myself, or I could have killed myself. I chose to save myself.”

“It doesn’t take effort to do it. It takes effort NOT to do it.”


And my personal favorite… “You are the best thing since sliced bread, sweetheart.”