A Passing Generation

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.

14 thoughts on “A Passing Generation”

  1. My Grandmother had alarm, never used it, would lie on the floor and wait.We possibly called her stubborn and pig headed but it never changed her.Miss her, the old battleaxe.There possibly will/are not be anyone of the selfish kind left in that age group as they eat, drive and drink themselves into an early grave. call me cynical.

  2. I have printed this out and posted it to my grandmother. My grandfather has Parkinson's and frequently falls and they live 200 miles away from family (and refuse to move cos they're happy and settled). When a fall happens during the day, the warden arranges help but when it happens overnight there is no warden. My 85 year old grandmother sits on the floor with her husband – there's now way she can lift him herself – and waits for morning. When I suggested that she calls an ambulance if it happens again in the night she said that she was worried about wasting their time and that they would send her a bill… And yes, they do hate accepting help.

  3. We went to a very similar call the other week, lovely old lady, blind in both eyes since she was 80 had fallen backwards after trying to get paracetomol out of her bedroom draw, slight cut on the nose but apart from that was fine, ever so apologetic for “dragging us out here when there's people who need us more” a pick up off the floor, putting back into her favourite chair and making her a cup of tea and she was made up..then our next job was to a chavvy female who demanded we take her to hospital “coz I know my rights innit”

  4. Maybe they just don't want to go to hospital!;)

    I've had horrible experiences in the times I've had to go to hospitals and GPs, so I avoid them at all costs. So perhaps the generation is renewing itself. I wonder if it's a tactic they're using…

  5. How do you know these people aren't being replaced?Logically, their 'replacements' are not yet frail and landing on the floor all the time. Therefore, you do not meet them, because they are not calling ambulances, do not yet have or need carers, are not yet living in warden-controlled flats…Maybe some of them are using their community alarms properly, or using mobile/cordless phones to call for non-999 help.It's like how you don't meet the imminent mothers who have arranged to make their own way to hospital, the children who are NOT endangering life and limb doing stupid/illegal stuff, or the people who can figure out for themselves to take paracetamol for a headache. They exist, I promise. Unfortunately the nature of your job is that you only meet the other sort.I would argue that there aren't really that many *less* Gladyses, but that there are a few more Vicky Pollards and they're a lot more vocal.

  6. I reckon he's referring to a certain attitude that you find in people who grew up during the war or around that time. My grandparents were like it, you never went to the doctor for anything short of a leg hanging off by a thread. You didn't complain and you were happy with your lot because there were always people worse off than you. I do believe he's right, those people are dying out. But there are decent people who will replace them, just for different reasons (such as a general sense of social responsibility), or as I said, total fear of the health service!

  7. I'm less than half her age and certainly wouldn't want to go to a hospital unless I was actually seeing the Grim Reaper in reflective surfaces.And probably not even then – at least in Hell when you're lying screaming in a vat of effluent, the phones are free and the food is better.

    I feel a need to mention, not entirely seriously, that in my younger enthusiastic drinking days I successfully spent many a night on the floor without rating it an emergency, of any kind.

    In fact, I seem to recall thinking it was funny.

    So, in the same way some “lovely old dears” out there might be growing old relishing their memories of war crimes or undiscovered poisonings, it's not fair to paint any section of society as above reproach or beneath contempt based purely on impressions, and their general level of good manners…

  8. When I go to people like these who 'don't want to bother us' I ask them what they did for a living. I then tell them how all that tax the paid was so they could get help when they needed it.A friend of mine has just got a job at as a warden at a block of waden controled flats, When he told me the first thing I said was “for gods sake make sure they are wearing their pendents!”. Much rather pick em up in the middle of the night and have a cup of tea and a chat with them than go out unchecked first thing because the carer has found them on the floor with hypothermia.

  9. I'm 31, I have Ehlers Danlos syndrome (severely) so my community alarm was fitted last week…where's the pendant now, erm, upstairs I think somewhere near to my bed. I did say I was uncomfortable with the whole idea, would probably not wear the pendant and certainly wouldn't ever push the button, after all I wouldn't even let an ambulance be called when I dislocated my larynx and had to go to A&E with breathing difficulties.Can't really explain why properly, it's partly to do with having been told I was attention seeking and had nothing wrong with me for so long and partly to do with the whole wouldn't want to bother anyone, don't want to go to hospital and would rather take my chances on the floor thing. Maybe that's hard to understand if you're fit and healthy, but from my perspective it's all too easy..a night spent on the floor of my own home or a night in A&E, it'll be my own floor any time, it's quieter and probably more comfortable.

    But, being deeply cynical, 100 a year for alarms is nothing compared to the cost of a care package (I no longer receive any help from social services) and although SS I think fund these alarms in my area now the decision to fit them is being made by the fire brigade who have very different criteria from social workers who will do anything and everything to avoid granting any kind of support so they are often fitted as an 'alternative' to carers. Bendy Girl 'the cynic'

  10. That's brilliant! Yep, spent night on fllor, thought it funny…And those old dears? Oh my, you should've met my great aunt!

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