Fall Call

The phone call came just as Dad and I had finished lunch and were about to enjoy some window-shopping at the mall. It was the nursing home informing us that Ma had again fallen out of bed and was again being taken by ambulance to a nearby emergency room.

By the time Dad and I reached the ER, Ma was in a state of panic. “Where am I?” she kept repeating. Her mind, lost in the fog of dementia, could not deal with the unfamiliar surroundings, sounds and people. She recognized neither Dad nor me, and she could not digest our words of comfort. By the time Ma was returned to her room in the nursing home, all three of us were emotionally drained.

I understand the need for such phone calls; there are legal and medical reasons why family members must be informed when a loved one falls. But five calls in four weeks, followed by five trips to the ER, seem too much. The facility needs to understand that if Ma slid from her bed, which was set low to the floor, onto the carpeted floor, it did not necessarily require emergency medical treatment. We had even asked for guardrails to be put up, but we were told that such devices could be more dangerous than protective. 

Taking a person with dementia to a different environment is upsetting for the individual. Perhaps, in such cases, the staff of a facility could notify family members of a fall and then let the family members decide what action to take. Of course, a fall that causes an obvious break is not up for debate, but the falls Ma experienced should not have been perceived as dire medical situations that took ER time away from people with real emergencies.

Dad and I could not convince the facility to listen to our concerns. Ma kept slipping out of bed, and the phone calls kept coming. Every disruption to her routine further diminished Ma–further pushed her into a mental maze from which she never emerged.

I appreciate a facility that cares, but I also welcome “reasonable caring” that does not create more physical and mental health problems for the patient–and the family.

Ronna Edelstein
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania


1 thought on “Fall Call”

  1. Such a sad tale of needless overreaction and underprotrection . When my father spent his last 2 weeks in a hospice, he was weak and could easily have fallen day after day from his bed. What helped him was the spending all his time in a bed with guardrails. When he tried to defeat this by climbing over them and fell bruising himself , they strapped him to his bed. He said that made him feel like he was in a concentration camp. This also was sad. The article here is very well written.

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