Tuesday, May 6, 2008

A Runaway Pushing a Walker

Bob spotted her first. He said later that he saw her goofy grin, her arms gripping her walker and knew she was an escapee as she headed across the busy four lanes of traffic away from the nursing home. "Go back," I said as I dug my cell phone out of my purse and flipped it open to turn it on. Bob circled back through the neighborhood and we both thought, surely, someone from the nursing home can see her, or surely, someone in the traffic closer to her will stop and guide her back before we can turn around. But, no. As we approached from the south, we could see a line of stopped traffic. At least they stopped. And she had made it across the four lanes, but was looking around wildly like she might try to recross by herself again. I jumped out to block her from stepping out in front of the cars now whizzing by, and Bob used our car to block traffic. As I coaxed her back from the street, Bob eased into the parking lot and opened the back van door. He wanted to put her in the van for safety, and if she let us, haul her back. I was surprised she obeyed and he helped her climb in and stow the walker. I noticed a painted, flat heart shaped wooden name tag dangling from the walker, and called 911. I told the operator what we were doing, taking an elderly escape artist back to her facility as she was outside the gates and had just crossed four lanes of heavy traffic. I don’t know how coherent I sounded, as the operator wanted to know if we wanted an officer sent. “Yes,” “but this is not an emergency…” We had her in our minivan, and were going to give her a ride back, and the operator wanted us to stay put. We did not want to cause this lady any more distress than was necessary, neither did we want to get in trouble for kidnapping, so I insisted, “no, we are taking her back.” The operator said to call back if we wanted an officer sent. After safely driving across the street and back into the gated community of nursing home buildings, we pulling into the first building that looked like it had an office. I hopped out to find someone who knew where this lady belonged. The lobby area was empty of people. A desk, unoccupied. I ventured further into the halls and a dining area, but one lone man sat eating his supper. So, I went back outside, and called 911 again, asking for an officer to come help us find where this lady belongs. This time a different operator was able to call the facility and get ahold of someone. Mrs. L_________ wanted out of the car, and we walked beside her into this building. She seemed to know where to go, and was pushing her walker down the hall when we finally spotted a polo-shirted employee on her cell phone. I think she was talking to the 911 operator, and assuring them that Mrs. L__________ was back, safe and sound. When the 911 operator came back on the line, I assured him that everything seemed back to normal. The employee claimed the elderly woman.

Happy Mother’s Day to the family of Mrs. L. I wonder if she will admit to her adventure. I wonder if the facility will admit to losing your dear mother for an hour? We talked to Mrs. L about what a beautiful evening for a walk, and she had said something about her failed runaway. Why did she want to runaway? Was the food not good? Her name sounds vaguely familiar, and I wonder if she used to live on our street. Seven years ago, we watched them build those fancy nursing home facilities on the old farm property across from the elementary school where our boys attended. As we drove out of the facilities and by the school, we wondered what we were suppose to do now. It was resolved before the police came. But, do we need to report the facility to protective services? If my mother was living there and had escaped, wouldn’t I want to know why their procedures broke down and why they did not miss her? Shouldn’t the facilities have a security camera on the busy street? If we had not gone back, would she have made it back on her own? Did anyone else call or care? What if we had taken the other route home or stopped to buy milk at Braum’s? Would we be reading about an elderly lady who wandered from her keepers, and was hit by cars? Sleep well, Mrs. L________. Today was not your day to go.


jennifer said...

Not funny AT ALL mind you, but the image of Mrs. L "running" with her walker made me..... smile. Just a little one.

My grandmother did that - left the house when my grandfather was asleep and set out for home. Mama and Daddy home. My parents retrieved her from the police station after she had been rescued. Alzheimers is just awful.


joyce said...

Dear Jennifer, I have been emailing back and forth all day yesterday with our Citizens on Patrol Co-ordinator, and all the fire hazard restrictions yet frequency of these occurrences are amazing. Since this facility is by a busy street, buzzers or alarms or signs might help, but how to approach them with compassion...it has been an education.

A dear friend one block away had the alarming experience of her husband walking away after church one night. And other signs of not being able to navigate in a section of town he used to know..she is afraid these are the beginning stages. Whoa. I am so glad all her grown children live nearby with their families.

buffi said...

What a blessing you two were to Mrs. L. I'm lke Jennifer - I could almost see that determined grin on her face. Bless her heart.