A Measure of Contentment: One Patient’s Daily Ritual

By Annelisa Ochoa for AJN

By Annelisa Ochoa for AJN

A Measure of Contentment,” the August Reflections essay in AJN, describes the daily ritual of a resident in a long-term care facility. As author Nancy Ngaruiya shows us, nurses and other health care providers can sometimes notice, and support, the small pleasures and routines that make life worthwhile for patients.

Of this patient, she writes:

We make our own happiness. We define what makes us content, what actions help us find that happiness. Sometimes the recipe takes just a few ingredients. Even in an environment where freedom is limited, where rules dictate when to wake up and go to bed, what days of the week we will get assistance with a full bath and who will do it, what meals and activities are or are not available, he has defined what makes him content, perhaps even happy.

The patient in question happens to be one of those who often get frustrated, who aren’t always grateful or helpful—those who tend to be labeled as “challenging” or “difficult” by overworked providers. It’s easy to notice only the frustration of people who’ve watched their worlds shrink bit by bit as their freedoms and abilities diminish along with their health.

But have you ever found yourself taking another look at a challenging patient, seeing beyond the outward frustration to the person who is still there, still in need of solace and daily meaning? This essay is gentle and engaging. Reflections columns are free, so give this one a read, and share it with others if it speaks to you.

Senior editor/social media strategy, American Journal of Nursing, and editor of AJN Off the Charts.


  1. Lois Gerber August 9, 2016 at 11:13 am

    Importance of honoring patient’s wishes within the context of safety well described here.

  2. Christine Contillo RN August 4, 2016 at 8:35 am

    “We make our own happiness” says the author. And as nurses we have a responsibility to help our patients do the same. We will all be better for doing so.

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