One of my new patients, “Esther,” broke her hip for the second time, about a year and a half ago. She wound up in a nursing home but somewhere along the lines they didn’t take as good care of her as they should have and she wound up with pressure wounds on both of her heels. So her niece, “Jennie”, took her into her home, effective last Friday. I met Esther and Jennie for the OT Initial Evaluation this past Wednesday and they seemed like they were really on the ball – Esther had some mild problems with her memory but not enough where it would hinder what she did in therapy and Jennie seemed relatively knowledgeable and ready to do whatever the health care team recommended. So they really seemed like the ideal patient and family member to work with – the kind who were going to do everything right.

You would think that I would know better to assume something like this, y’know?

I was scheduled to see Esther on Thursday at 11:15am but got a call from Jennie (I recognized the number) around 10:30 that morning. I was working with another patient at the time so I let it go to voice mail, figuring that it was a message to tell me that Esther hadn’t slept well, was sick, or whatever reason and that they didn’t want me to come – I get phone calls like that all the time. Anyway, I finished working with my guy about 20 minutes later, went to my car and listened to my voicemail. It was Jennie, asking me to call her back.

So I called Esther and Jennie’s house, Jennie picked up the phone and in my sweet, perky “Therapist Voice” said, “Hi Jennie, this is Sharon the OT. I got your message – what’s up?” Jennie proceeded to tell me that Esther fell around 7 o’clock in the morning – she got out of bed without asking Jennie to help her, her knees buckled and down she went.

I asked if she was OK and Jennie said she thought so – she wasn’t saying that she was hurting anywhere but (and here’s the kicker) she’s still on the floor.

“Soooo…you didn’t pick her up?”

“No,” Jennie said, “I can’t pick her up by myself.”

“Is there a friend or a neighbor you can ask to help you help her up?” No.

OooooK. “Then Jennie, after I ask you a few questions that will make me sound as if I’m very concerned about what happened – and I really AM concerned but I’m mainly asking because it will help me fill out the 15 pages of Incident Report paperwork I’m going to have to do I want you to hang up and call 911 so the emergency workers can check her out to make sure she’s really OK and then they can get her up if you can’t. And then I’d like you to call me later today, when things have calmed down, to let me know how things are doing so I know if Esther was taken to the hospital or not because that’s another set of paperwork I would have to do” Jennie, always the compliant one, did exactly what she was told. It was a happy surprise to hear from her a few hours later that EMS came and it was determined that Esther was fine and didn’t even have to go to the Emergency Room to be checked out. Thursday’s OT visit was cancelled but I’ll see her again on Monday.

Now, I know I work in health care so some things having to do with “taking care of someone” might come a little more naturally to me, just as an air conditioner repair person is going to have a better understanding of what to do with an air conditioner that’s on the fritz. But really, to not call 911 when the woman had fallen and you couldn’t get her up by yourself? To let her sit there for three and a half hours before you told anybody? Am I wrong in thinking Jennie should have known better to do…something? Anything? Yeah, I’m just shaking my head on this one…