Care alarms

Hi, I’m a new member. My name is Marc, I’m 56 and I care for my mum who is 80 and has Alzheimer’s. I have cared for her for the last five years.

I want to write about an incident that took place over the weekend. On Sunday evening I was cooking dinner in the kitchen, I had left my mum in the living room watching TV. I went in after about ten minutes and somehow she had fallen off her riser/recliner chair. I immediately checked her over and she was conscious, not bruised or bleeding, not in pain, she hadn’t hurt her head. She had fallen in an awkward and uncomfortable position and I couldn’t get her up. If she had have been hurt I would have not hesitated to call 999. In the circumstances I decided to press her alarm.

When the operator answered, I gave her the salient information, that my mother had fallen, that she was unhurt, that she does not have covid 19, nor has she been exposed to it. I asked for the responders to be called. The operator replied that she needed to ask some questions first.

While the operator was asking questions, I was trying to make my mum more comfortable and trying to deal with the cooking. I was becoming increasingly stressed out and irritable as the questions seemed to be going on for ages and seemed mostly irrelevant to the situation. Eventually she asked if my mum was on blood thinners. I replied that she was and again emphasised that she was unhurt. The operator then informed me that her “questioning pathway” told her that the appropriate course of action was to call an ambulance and that she would not call the responders. At this point, to my shame, I completely lost my temper and shouted abusively at her. I have since apologised, the situation was not her fault, she was just doing her job. I cancelled the ambulance as I knew that because my mother was unhurt that she would be treated as low priority and probably stay on the floor for many hours. I managed to contact my brother who managed to get here within the hour and helped me to get her up.

I have since made a formal complaint to the companies involved. I feel that this company’s policies and procedures discount my expertise as a carer and discounts my ability to make an accurate on the spot risk assessment. I was left feeling patronised, infantalised and deskilled by this experience. I feel that as a carer I probably know more about what is happening and the kind of help my mother needs better than someone following a questioning pathway, whatever that is, in a call centre hundreds of miles away.

I’d like some feedback from others. Has anyone had similar experiences? Am I completely wrong, I know I was wrong to lose my temper, but am I wrong to feel that the company needs to take my experience into account? I also worry about the operators. I feel that their company is setting them up to receive abusive calls from stressed out people like myself. If I call the alarm, it means that I am in crisis, that I am facing a situation that I cannot easily handle by myself. In these circumstances, I would like to be listened to, understood and to be reassured that help is on its way not to be greeted with an extended questionnaire. Am I being unreasonable?

I found my husband dead, in bed, one morning. I’d never seen a dead person before, but it was absolutely obvious, he was really cold, for starters. But the ambulance call handler wouldn’t take on board what I was saying, and made everything much more difficult, still asking me if the patient was conscious and breathing!!! I lived only 200 yards from the ambulance station, I kept asking where it was, I was told it was coming safely…I didn’t ask that, I asked where it was, but she just didn’t answer a straight question with a straight answer. In fact, all the ambulances at the station near me were out on calls, so they had to come from the next town, where my son lives, 15 miles away. I wish she had told me.
I had to go to the out of hours surgery at the hospital myself recently, because of Covid I had to be triaged first. A lump had come up on the side of my face (it turned out to be an infection in a gland) but even after I’d explained what the problem was there were more idiot questions which went on and on. She was incredibly patronising, even when I explained that at one stage I’d been a hospital receptionist myself, she still patronised me.
What should have been a quick call, took ages and ages. What a waste of their time, and mine!