Mom has dementia, that’s no secret. I inform all medical personnel that she comes in contact with – doctors, nurses, ambulance attendants, etc. And I informed Lifeline when we decided to go with their company. Lifeline, for those who are not familiar with them, is a medical alert company. If mom should fall, which she does occasionally, or if she should need help and unable to reach dad, she can push the button on the gadget she wears around her neck and Lifeline will respond. The commercial on television for Lifeline shows elderly people on the floor, pushing the button and saying, “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up”.
Mom has on occasion (more than one occasion) pushed the button while lying in bed and announced to the Lifeline attendant that she had fallen and couldn’t get up. I guess she forgets what the gadget hanging around her neck is for, starts to play with it and when a voice comes over the speaker asking if she needs help, she mimics the commercial. In the past the Lifeline employee has called dad to let him know that mom had fallen. Once dad finds mom tucked in bed he lets the Lifeline people know that all is well and no further action is needed.
So far things have worked well. I have explained to them about mom’s dementia, explained that she has delusions and hallucinations and that unfortunately these calls to them will continue. There’s really nothing we can do to stop them. They appeared to understand, purporting to put a large notice on the top of her file stating that she is a dementia patient and to always call dad or me before contacting emergency services. It has worked well for over a year, but somewhere along the way it changed.
One evening recently mom went to bed early and dad was up watching television when he heard the walkie-talkie that he keeps on the side of the bed go off. “Do you need something, Honey,” dad asked. All he heard was whispering. “What? I can’t hear you.” Mom replies a little louder, “There’s a man in the room!” “No, there’s no man in the room,” dad says as he hurriedly walks to the bedroom. He arrives in time to hear Lifeline say, “The police are on the way.”
“No, no, there’s no man here,” he tells the Lifeline operator.
“Who are you?” asks the operator.
“I’m her husband,” dad replies. “No one has broken in the house.”
“Okay, we’ll cancel the police.”
Shortly thereafter the house phone rings. It was the police. “Please step out of your front door.” My 85-year-old father steps outside and is surrounded by police, one of which is holding a flashlight in his face, and an officer with a police dog is in the backyard. After explaining the situation, he is allowed to go back inside.
The next day dad relayed what happened to me. I gave Lifeline a call to reiterate the fact that mom has dementia, has hallucinations and will at times see people who are not there and push her button. I requested again, nicely I might add, that my dad be contacted first, before emergency services are called since he lives with mom in the same house. They agreed.
A couple of days later the same scenario – mom in bed early, dad watching television when there’s a knock on the door. The ambulance attendant standing at the front door informed dad that Lifeline had contacted them stating that my mother had fallen and injured herself. Dad knew nothing about it. He found mom sitting on the toilet unable to get up. Apparently mom pushed the button and when Lifeline responded she panicked and told them that she had fallen. When asked if she was injured mom responded that she had hurt her neck. About an hour after the situation was cleared up Lifeline called me to let me know that mom had fallen, an ambulance had been called but she was fine. No call was ever made to my father.
Once again, a simple phone call to dad could have eliminated the ambulance showing up needlessly. Instead, dad will now be saddled with a hefty bill from the ambulance provider which will not be paid by Medicare or their supplement since mom did not get in the ambulance.
Again I called Lifeline and I wasn’t quite as polite as the last time. In fact, I was pretty darn irritated and some poor woman got the brunt of my irritation. I just could not understand why suddenly things had changed and emergency services were called before my father or me. A supervisor came on the line explaining “protocol”, telling me that if a client requested assistance it was “protocol” that they were required to send some type of emergency services. I again explained about the dementia that plagued mom. I again explained that this would continue to happen and a call to my father who lives in the same house with their “client” could clear up any misunderstandings. I asked when their “protocol” had changed since for the last year my father was always called first. After heated discussions I informed the supervisor that we wouldn’t be needing their services anymore. I was fortunate enough to find a local company that is more understanding and willing to work with us.
So, bye-bye Lifeline. Good riddance.