Aug 19, 2012

Dotty Faints, Did I Panic? Should I Blame Myself?

Here is something important to consider. I won't blame myself, for inaction or laziness. I won't blame myself for anything that was beyond my control. As long as I know, I did the very best I could, I won't play the blame game in my head.

By Bob DeMarco
Alzheimer's Reading Room

Dotty Faints, Did I Panic, Should I Blame Myself
Previously I wrote, Alzheimer's, Stroke, and Dotty.

I was trying to make a simple straightforward point, you have to get mentally prepared in advance to deal with problems that frequently happen to dementia patients.

In order to function properly under stress, you need a plan. A plan you can execute when the time comes.

For example, few of us have ever dealt with a stroke. I hope we never have to do it. I think it is easy to imagine how stressful it would be to find yourself in a situation where you needed to act fast. Where every second counts.

Since few of us have experience dealing with Alzheimer's disease when it strikes, it only stand to reason that we need to get educated about all the problems that come with the disease. Education is one thing. Reality is often very different. Reality often includes stress and confusion.

So this is why I advocate mental preparedness, in advance.

Being mentally prepared. Getting out in front of a potential medical emergencies in advance.

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One day over six years ago Dotty was standing near the door to our home and she said, I am going to faint. I went over and put my arm under her arm, and sure enough she fainted.

Down she goes, I put her down nice and easy but it was still like lowering a lead brick. Dead weight is very heavy. At the time, 150 pounds of dead weight (Dotty is now only about 130 pounds).

I was surprised at how heavy she was going down.

I put her on the floor and laid her out. After a few seconds she came back and could talk to me. Once I felt like she was stable, I went, grabbed a pillow, and put it under her head.

Then I started to think. What should I do? Watch her closely for a while? Call 911? She seemed stable. Eyes open, talking to me,. Pulse a bit on the high side. Understandable.

I discussed the situation with myself, in my head, for a few minutes or so, and finally I decide -- Call 911 idiot.

I asked myself.  How are you going to feel if it turns out she had a mini-stroke? How are you going to feel if you made a critical mistake? Forget about that, what is going to happen to Dotty if you don't take action, and there is time bomb in her head.

I dialed 911 and described the situation.

The point here. I am thinking about all the alternatives and contingencies while Dotty is lying on the floor. I have to think about all the alternatives and then make a decision. Minutes are flying by. Maybe crucial minutes.

After a minute or two, I think, I better open up the door so they can see where to go. The ambulance is already here. I wave at them.

They come in. Get Dotty up into a chair and check her out. Pulse a bit high, otherwise she seems okay.

The main guy says to me, we should take her to the hospital to get her checked out, might only be precautionary but it should be done. I say, lets do it.

And now it starts, Dotty tells them no GD way I am going to the hospital. She digs in her heals. She refuses. Guess what? Legally, I cannot make them take her to the hospital. Legally she can tell them, get out. Education 101. Make a note Bob, don't let this happen again.

After about 20 minutes they finally convince Dotty to go. I now love the emergency medical people. This is my first encounter with them. I think, they really train these people well.

Education 102. Make a note Bob, these people are getting a couple of cases of beer in short order. I need to cultivate some kind of relationship with these people. Next time, I want them to know who we are. Sooner or later, I might need them again. Note: they did get the beer, I did get a good relationship with them.

Sooner or later happened,  one year later almost to the day. This time around they come in and start working on Dotty. One guy looks at me and says, you are the beer guy right? I say yes, he tells the others, this is the beer guy. Education 103. Make a note Bob, you get more with beer than you do with a thank you note (I delivered the thank you note with the beer). They didn't call me the Thank You Guy did they?

They tell me she seems fine, but we should take her to the hospital to get checked out. I say, no problem take her away. Mom, they are going to take you to the hospital to check you out. Deja vu. Dotty precedes to tell everyone in no uncertain terms she is not going to the hospital. I look at the guy and say, hold on one second. I tell them, I have the necessary paperwork but let me try this.

I tell Dotty. Mom, if you agree to go to the hospital I won't let them keep you over night and I'll be with you the entire time. I really think WE should do it. Believe it or not, Dotty agrees.

This second time around, I didn't hesitate. I called 911. I had a plan. Smooth. Good decision making.

Education 104. Note to Bob, get mentally prepared, start making game plans, remember, when you have a plan the stress in one one-hundredth of what it is when you don't have a plan.

First time around, Dotty stayed in the hospital over night for observations. Second time around, I had her back home after about six hours. They didn't like it much, and the hospital doctor explained in great detail everything that could go wrong. Meanwhile, this second time around I am all educated up, and I know what questions to ask. Like can you rule out a stroke at this time. Did you do this, do that? She's going home.

Turns out we live in a very good location. The EMTs and the ambulance are only a mile away. The hospital, Delray Medical, in only two miles away. A straight shot up a nice six lane street.

I don't mind saying, I am a smart guy. I made fast decisions for a living and worked in a fast paced, high stress, environment for over 20 years. So one might conclude it was easy for me to decide what to do when my mother "hit the deck" the first time around. Well it wasn't. I had no training, no frame of reference, and no experience dealing with a potential medical emergency.

Let me put it to you this way. A minute or two can be the difference between life and death. Or, between good medical outcome, bad medical outcome.

When and if the time comes that I have to act fast, I will. I am now prepared. If things don't work out I'll know this, I did the best I could because I was mentally prepared and I had a plan.

Here is something important to consider. I won't blame myself, for inaction or laziness. I won't blame myself for anything that was beyond my control.

As long as I know, I did the very best I could, I won't play the blame game in my head.

Bob DeMarco
Bob DeMarco is the Founder of the Alzheimer's Reading Room and an Alzheimer's caregiver. The blog contains more than 3,800 articles with more than 306,100 links on the Internet. Bob lives in Delray Beach, FL.

Original content Bob DeMarco, the Alzheimer's Reading Room