Sunday, December 14, 2008


When a person has dementia, so much is forgotton. On my list of most important things are not so much the wife's birthday or the children's faces or the sensation of thirst, but the awarenss of limitations, say for instance the ability to stand and walk without falling over.

As they come and go, it is always seductive to think the new one moving in as somehow easier to care for because they can walk. This is not always the case. Like I mentioned in an earlier post: it is winter, and as a group, they fail in the winter. All at the same time. It happened last winter, and the winter before. And it will happen again and again. The thing is, after the crop from last winter was finally in the ground, a whole new crop moved in, walking and talking, just not remembering. And as time passed, the whole crowd is essentially failing in many of the same ways at pretty much the same time.

As a community and an industry we have some clever strategies to deal with "fall risk" as it is euphemistically known. "Fall certainty" would be more like it. This may not be very interesting, but I am trying to tell you a story, and can only do it if you have a bit of background and theory.

So we have hourly checks. That is one way of dealing with people who don't know they can't walk. We check them hourly. The obvious problem with this practice is that they don't know when the hour is up, or that we are coming at all, or who we are when we get there for that matter. They get up when they have to pee, or hear a noise, or the urge strikes, which it often doesn't for hours at a time, a fact which is in our distinct favor. And when we do show up, they thank us and send us away, saying things like, "I'll let you know if I need some help." Which they won't because they don't. Know.

And then we have tag alarms. These devices, created by Satan, are magnets connected by string and clips that hook to the clothing and (hopefully) a stationary object such as a chair. When the person leans too far forward, the magnets separate, causing a screaming alarm that, in a perfect world, alerts the staff that the person is "on the move." Sadly, it is often just a scary noise letting us know Louise is on the floor again. And she said she'd let us know. Liar liar.

So, given winter, and brain failure, and the passage of time, eleven of sixteen of my people are at risk for falls. Six are on tag alarms. Three still have the presence of mind to use the "I've-fallen-and-I-can't-get-up" panic buttons around their necks.

These days, the unit sounds like an alarm factory, staff dashing one direction and then the other trying to determine where the sound is coming from, and like a baby's cry, they know each alarm. Apparently there are unique differences to each.

Anyway, I came to work on Thursday and found a note on my desk scrawled by one of my favorite guys, Robert. He sports his Obama button proudly and although he has no idea who Obama is, he knows he is a democrat and that something important happened in the election.

Robert had successfully made his way to my desk, found a flourescent green sharpie, and wrote on a napkin next to his tag alarm:

This for 1 cent.
See Rob Huey

He knows who he is.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Ah, ya got me with that one.