Dementia Can Kill You!!

I was working in a float pool as an LPN years ago until I landed something more permanent. It was always a crap shoot on what the agency would offer me in the form of jobs. Nurses Announcements Archive Article

Dementia Can Kill You!!

One assignment will never leave my mind; it was quite a horrible experience! They called and offered me a job working at 3 pm until 11 pm, for three evenings in a row. They assured me it was an "easy" assignment taking care of a ninety-something-year-old woman in her home while her husband recovered from a hip replacement.

They told me she was very sweet but had a short-term memory problem. She could not be left alone as she had very progressed Alzheimer's. She and her husband were married for about a thousand years and had no children so he was very concerned about her safety.

I agreed to the assignment. It went from Sunday to Tuesday evening. I had to find a teenage babysitter because of the hours, I was never a fan of that but it was all that was available.

I arrived at her home at 3 pm and relieved the nurse that had been there during the day. I should have known something was up when she practically ran out the door when I got there, giving me a brief overview of her care, meds, and routine.

I introduced myself to the little old lady, who was sweet and quiet. We sat down and talked for a few minutes, and then she looked at me strangely and asked who I was again. This was only the beginning of the "memory issue."

Throughout the evening, she walked around the house calling for her husband "Allen." I had to redirect her many, many times by telling her he was in the hospital getting better. Her memory of who I lasted for 5 to 10 minutes at the most. She was even frightened by my presence several times if she would leave the room then come back in and see me, the stranger in her home!

This went on and on. I fixed supper with her by my side as much as possible, and as long as I kept her busy talking to me, I didn't frighten her as often. We ate supper, had her meds, and watched TV until it was her scheduled bedtime of 9 pm.

I recall counting the minutes until I could leave; reorienting someone that often is exhausting! I got her ready for bed and tucked her in. I thought finally I could relax a little.

After about 10 minutes, I could hear her moving around in bed, start crying, and then calling out "Allen" again. I came in to help which of course scared her but managed to settle her down again to sleep. This happened several times. After a few more times, I thought I would just let her fall asleep and not come in and scare her. Well, I heard her getting out of bed and moving things so I went in to help her. That's when I saw it, she had decided to load a handgun and place it near her because she was afraid to be alone and Allen wasn't home. I froze in my tracks! It was sitting on her bedside table, with two boxes of bullets! Of course, she saw me and got scared but luckily she was on the other side of the room from the gun. I told her who I was and talked her into using the bathroom before getting back into bed. While she was in the bathroom, I frantically hid the gun and bullets in the kitchen, shaking like a leaf the whole time!

I helped her back into bed and tucked her in, by then she was pretty tired and finally fell asleep. Meanwhile, the whole situation sank into me. If I would have made any noise in the living room, she could have easily come out and shot me dead! Or just coming into her bedroom to help her, she could have blown me away! It was so hard not to cry thinking about it!

I watched the clock and finally, 11 pm rolled around. "I made it!" I thought. Then it was 11:10, and 11:15 pm. Where was the night nurse? At 11:20 pm I called the agency. They told me that the night nurse had called in and they couldn't find a replacement. By then I felt like I was in the twilight zone! They told me I could go ahead and leave if I wanted to. I said "What? And leave her here all night alone, I can't do that!" Obviously, they didn't care if I lost my license, but I sure did! I was basically stuck! Called my sitter who was angry I was already late and couldn't sit for me all night. Just then, around midnight, someone was knocking at the door. It was the neighbor; she said she was notified by the agency that I couldn't stay the night so she could relieve me. I nearly cried! I told her about the gun in her room. She said, "Oh yeah, Allen has them all over the house; she probably has another one on the table by now!"

After that statement, I promptly thanked her and left in a hurry. Did I mention this was in Montana? Well, it scared me pretty bad and I told the agency they could stick the next two nights where the sun doesn't shine!

BSN/PHN for a county public health department

2 Articles   35 Posts

Share this post

Specializes in Home Hlth, Psych, Nsg Hm, Plasma Med Sup.

I did geriatric home health for 7 years in the go-go 90's, intermittent visits - nothing scary except hearing gunshots a couple of times in the worst areas of Atlanta, and working in tenement housing. Big difference, however, between intermittent visits and staying a whole shift in someone's house. You're basically hostage to people's whims, drug parties, personality disorders, and many other things. Thanks for your story. Made me remember why I decided I never wanted to spend a shift in someone's house. :smackingf

Specializes in Mental and Behavioral Health.

Whoa! That story gave me chills! Thank God you're OK! People should really lock up their guns, even in Montana. We've got a gun-happy dementia patient around here, too. The cops took the firing pin out of his gun. Still, if he were to level that thing at someone who was carrying...

All i can say is wow i'm not sure i could of stayed with that patient after seeing the gun you are very brave she could of killed you and they would say oh well she didn't know what she was doing i'm glad you left that job !!!!!!!!!!!!

Specializes in Geriatrics.

What an incredibly unsafe situation ! Not only for you, either. The mailman, the paperboy, the little girl selling Girl Scout cookies... Anyone this poor woman perceives as a threat...

Thank you for sharing your story. Her husband should not keep any gun in the house. It makes me nervous when I think that old lady has a gun. Anyway, I feel so sorry for her. Hopefully I will never get dementia when I am old.

:nurse:.............OMG , I work long term care and I realize how confused these type of patients can be, Im just glad we have no weapons there

Unbelievable! That's one reason I don't like the concealed weapon law in my state! Anyone can have a gun!!

Specializes in Med/Surg, ICU, educator.

This man should have had enough sense to lock them up AND warn you about them. What if she were to forget who he was. I could be very ugly. I'm glad you got out of there safely. That neighbor must have had a set of cajones on her. WOW!

Don't you just love the agency that tells you 3-11 and then no one shows up to relieve you. You are stuck. I think they know exactely what they are doing. Same thing with some facilities where I have worked. They will actualy put people on the schedule they know are not coming (some have not worked there in months). Then you get stuck staying. Happens all the time. The reason for doing this is so they can say we had coverage but so and so did not show up.

Specializes in Home health care, CNA (nursing home).

All I can say to this is holy cow! That thought never even crossed my mind until I read your story! I wouldn't have gone back either, that is for damn sure! I don't care what the pay was, no amount of money can bring back your life!!!

Specializes in CCU, SICU, CVSICU, Precepting & Teaching.

when dad was alive and mom was still living at home with him, he kept loaded guns all over the house, too. mom at least recognized her family and friends, but i shudder to think what may have happened to a home care nurse stuck in the house with her for eight hours!