Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Same Song, Same Verse Repeated

We settled my mother-in-law into her chair yesterday with a copy of Women's World and her walker right in front of her. The cord to the call button was wrapped around a stuffed bear so that the signaling device couldn't  fall on the floor out of her reach.

Before we left the room Husband and I took turns stooping down so she could look straight into our faces. Her hearing aids were hidden under the cervical collar and we wanted to make sure she heard us.

"You cannot get up without help," we said with as much intensity as we could muster. "If you need something, push the call button. You cannot get up by yourself. Do you understand this?"

She told us she understood, but as we walked toward the door she was trying to push herself up to walk out with us so we rushed back into the room.

"No, no! You can't get up without help!" This time Husband knelt beside the chair and held her right hand, the one not bruised and swollen. "Mom, you just can't."

Then we hugged her gingerly and kissed her softly on the left side of her head, the side away from the 17 staples in her scalp, and told her we loved her, and in spite of her confusion and exhaustion, she replied that she loved us, too.

She had fallen three times in three days and we don't know what to do.

By law, we cannot put rails on her bed, or any kind of restraints that would keep her from getting up. If we move the walker out of reach she tries to get around without it. She has learned to disconnect the alarm that sounds if she leaves her chair, and in any case the alarm can only signal she's left the chair; it can't reverse the weakness in her legs or the unsteadiness that topples her. I understand this law against rails and restraints, really, I do. But still...

We don't know what to do.

Sunday's fall was the worst, with a day spent in the emergency room for repair of the ugly C-shaped gash on her scalp and more scans and X-rays that revealed a hairline fracture in her neck as well as the bruised but unbroken hand and thigh. She spent the night in the hospital, but she's eating and sleeping and her pain is manageable, so that's not the place for her to recuperate. She will recuperate, or not, in her own room.

She is confused and sad and inutterably exhausted, and so are we, so we hold her hand and sit next to her and pray that the next fall is less painful.

It's the only thing we can do.


  1. This is so frustrating. It's so frustrating to have a rule, even for good and worthy reasons, when the rule was put into place to ban one kind of action without anyone coming up with an alternative first.

    I KIND OF get the law against restraints, but I also kind of don't. During surgery, I had certain restraints put on me to make sure I didn't hurt myself. Babies and children can be restrained for their own safely, to keep them from hurting themselves. I feel very frustrated (third use of word certainly shows that) that there's nothing we can do in other situations where a person could be protected from hurting themselves. It seems wrong when a rule set up to protect people could in fact hurt them instead of protect them.

  2. Swistle, I thought the staff was kidding me when they said they couldn't put rails on the bed. We wouldn't let our toddlers sleep without them, would we? And toddlers are much steadier on their feet if they climb out in the night to wander around. The last stop before the end of the road is pretty desolate.

  3. Just went through this last year with Dale, Sara. Have suggestions that work. I'll call. My heart goes out to Lyle and to you. It is HARD.