I'm currently doing strange things to my Macbook at the moment (by breaking half a dozen warranties I'm getting to upgrade my hard disk. Hopefully). Consequentially I'm writing this on my Ubuntu laptop.
Our patient, lets call her 'Gladys', is ninety-nine years old.
She lives in her own flat, but has a carer come first thing in the morning to make sure that she is alright.
She's blind in one eye, deaf in one ear and normally potters around her house. She should use a walking frame, but often walks around without it.
She's been laying on her floor all night.
She has a community alarm. This is a pendant that is worn around the neck. If the person needs help they press the big red button on it and a call is put through to a care centre – they will then call us.
Her community alarm is on a table.
She'd managed to pull a tablecloth off the table to use as a blanket. Sleeping on the floor she waited until her morning carer arrived.
Community carers aren't allowed to pick people up off the floor – that is a job for the ambulance service, with our backs of steel we are often called to do some heavy lifting.
But we like these jobs, if the patient hasn't hurt themselves we can leave them at home – the patient is always happy to see us and it makes us feel that we have done something useful.
So we check Gladys over, she hasn't hurt herself, she isn't too cold and she wants to stay at home.
We pick her up, tidy up the things that she pulled on the floor when she grabbed the tablecloth. We make her a cup of tea and chat a bit about her family. I tell her off for not wearing her alarm, and remind her that we are more than happy to come around her place should she get into trouble.
I let her know that I'd rather pick her off the floor than yet another drunk.
I'm betting that she won't wear the alarm, there are a lot of people who don't even though it costs £100 a year.
I've known elderly patients who have fallen over at night, then not pressed the button until gone 8am. They 'didn't want to bother us'.
It's a generation that is getting smaller and not being replaced, this self-sufficiency and the desire not to be a burden on others. The feeling that spending the night on the floor isn't an 'emergency'.
I'll miss them when they are all gone.