Caregivers: Sometimes We Need 911

Sometimes #caregivers need help from 911.  I’m the type of person who believes I can get through most challenges on my own. But when an impaired #dementia patient lands on the floor, you shouldn’t try to lift them alone.
caregivers 911
I had to learn this lesson the hard way. In the course of a year, my mother went from being unable to stand, to walking with support. Then a month ago Mom started losing strength. Now she can’t stand up for long — even with help.

Until January, I was able to get her out of bed and dress her without assistance. Then one day, during our carefully orchestrated morning dance, she let go of her support bar. My eyes were focused on the back part of her body so I never saw her hand move. By the time (a few seconds?) I realized what was happening, momentum was pulling her away from me. I used every muscle in my body to swing her past the sink and the toilet so she wouldn’t fall against them. Although I was strong and fast enough to keep her from hitting anything, I could not prevent her slow fall to the floor.

We were lucky. Adrenaline kicked in and I got a surge of energy. Neither of us hit the ground hard. But once my mom was down, I could not budge her. I tried every method I could think of to gain some leverage. I put a gait belt around her waist and tried to raise her. I pushed a piece of furniture behind her, hoping I could at least lift her to a seated position. Nothing worked.

I grabbed the phone. My friend’s very strong husband did not answer. Then I called a female neighbor who hurried over to help. But even with the two of us working together, we failed. Finally, I threw up my hands and called 911.

Our house is in the woods, so both the fire company and Emergency Medical Technicians are staffed by volunteers. They are very well trained, but most work elsewhere and don’t get paid for the hours they spend helping people. We were so lucky that someone came over right away.

A really nice young man with tremendous biceps arrived at our house. Among other questions, he asked my mother’s weight.

I told him, “She’s about 103 pounds.”

“Okay,” he said, “I’m just gonna give her a bear hug and pull her up off the floor.”

“I can’t wait to see it, ” I replied.

He lifted Mom gently as if she were a stranded lamb and dropped her back into her wheelchair. It took seconds and it was amazing. In that moment, I realized that there’s no shame in asking for emergency help when a problem is beyond the scope of your knowledge or physical capacity.  Have you ever faced a predicament like this? Did you get the help you needed?

Emergency Prep for Caregivers

Like a lot of caregivers, I spent most of yesterday doing #emergency prep. Some things had to be done advance, like stocking the bed pads and the adult wipes. I also did a lot of  cooking. But there are many tasks you can’t do until you’re in the middle of a crisis event like #Winter Storm Jonas.

Emergency Prep for Caregivers

Our original forecast called for 5-8 inches of snow. The weather man was wrong and in the end we got about 13 inches in our part of the Poconos. Though I’ve always tried to follow the guidelines for emergency prep, snow storms present a special challenge. So much of the situation is out of our control. Last week I filled the pantry and made sure we had my mom’s medical supplies. But we’re always in danger of losing power because we live in the woods. Heavy snow can break trees and damage the electrical lines. Once we lose power, we also lose water, because ours is pumped up from a deep well.

I need water to keep hands clean, wash dishes, and maintain sanitary conditions with someone who is incontinent. The last item is a big challenge if you don’t have running water. We have bottles of hand sanitizer and lots of wipes. But a faucet brimming with  hot water is hard to live without. I had to line the bathtub with large buckets and fill them all with water — just in case. Fortunately, we didn’t have to use them.

I’m also fortunate that we have good neighbors. Our house is in a remote place but the few people who live near us really help each other. One neighbor knocked on my door yesterday morning and said, “Meals on Wheels?” She brought us home made potato salad and a smile. Those smiles are worth a mint. After 24 hours of lifting my mom, clearing snow, and stoking the coal fire, I felt like a worn out wagon wheel. No aides could get to our house until this morning because our lane hadn’t been plowed.

Thank goodness the sun came out today. The snow looks a lot more friendly when those bright rays light it up. Many places got way more snow than we did and the safety challenges vary with geography. I hope all of you made it through the storm safely. Tell us your experience and please share if you have any good ideas about preparing for emergencies.