Why a personal alarm is a good idea
Mrs Jacobsen would have just had to press the alarm button for help
My first job when I left school, 32 years ago, was in the social services department of my local hospital. I was tasked with touring the wards on a daily basis to gather information on any new admissions who the ward sister thought might need help. I would then breeze on to the ward, put on my best bedside manner and have a chat with the referred patients. Any who set my personal alarm bells ringing because it seemed they were struggling at home would be passed on to the social worker team.
Usually it would be a case of arranging Meals On Wheels or setting up a Home Help to be available to the patient upon their discharge. Most of the time this would be no problem. The patient would generally be happy to have some assistance, whether temporarily until they had recuperated fully, or on a more permanent basis.
Occasionally, however, the patient did not want to know. This happened most often among the elderly. Many were proud and refused to admit they needed any help, even if they lived alone. It was all quite an interesting life lesson for an 18-year-old.
Mrs Jacobsen’s accident
One lady, Mrs Jacobsen, I got to know quite well. She fiercely resisted any offer of help, claiming she could manage perfectly happily, despite spells of dizziness which had led to her falling and hence her current stay in hospital. However, we had some lovely chats and when she was discharged I at least got her consent to let me call on her at her home to make sure she was OK.
This I did on a weekly basis after Mrs Jacobsen’s discharge. I always called round at the same time on the same day and she was always in. On my fourth visit my repeated knocking on her door drew no response. She could have gone out. She wasn’t housebound. But something, call it instinct, told me otherwise. I peered through the windows of her bungalow but could see no sign of her. I thought I could see something dark on the hall carpet when I peered through the frosted glass of the front door. I raised the flap of her letterbox and peered through. She was lying motionless on the carpet.
The door was locked. I took off my coat and wrapped it around my fist. Two punches broke the glass so I could stick my hand through and release the latch. To my immense relief, Mrs Jacobsen was alive.
It later turned out that she had collapsed two days previously and broke her hip. She had tried to reach her telephone, but the pain had been too great. She had had no way of letting anyone know of her plight. I am reminded of this when I read about the personal alarms which are available today, the kind where you just press the alarm button for help. Technology has certainly moved on in 32 years.
If such a thing had been commonly available back then, Mrs Jacobsen would not have had to suffer as she did. She went on to make a full recovery, but it had been a very close call.