Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Neurological nightmares

I have a pleasantly demented patient, Mrs. Tangle. She's very nice, but quite confused, and getting slowly worse. She's at an assisted living apartment.

Her husband died 2 years ago. They had a few old boxes in a closet that no one ever got around to unpacking. The family figured they were clothes, or pictures, or whatever. They were buried under blankets and photo albums and other stuff.

So a few days ago I got a call from the patient's son. He urgently needed to talk to me, and Annie told me that I needed to deal with this one personally. I trust her judgment when she says that. So I took the phone. At about the same time I picked him up, Mary said the police had just called wanting to talk to me about Mrs. Tangle, and were on another line.


Dr. Grumpy: "This is Dr. Grumpy."

Mr. Son: "I need to talk to you about Mom! She unpacked some old boxes in her closet!"

Dr. Grumpy: "Okay. What's the problem?"

Mr. Son: "We didn't know what was in them! We thought it was clothes or something!"

Dr. Grumpy: "And..?"

Mr. Son: "One had Dad's old gun, from when he was a policeman!"

Dr. Grumpy: "What! Is it loaded?"

Mr. Son: "I have no idea. The nursing home just called me! She's wandering around with it. She's not threatening anyone, but she's walking all over there waving a gun!"

Dr. Grumpy: "Has anyone tried to get it away from her?"

Mr. Son: "Um, I was hoping you would go over and do it."


I told him no, and grabbed the other line. It was the Grumpyville police, wanting to know just how mentally intact she was before they tried to reason with her.

Fortunately, the situation ended without incident. But when dealing with the aged, don't just assume that old box has harmless stuff in it. This isn't the first time I've had families tell me they've found previously unknown firearms hidden in a demented person's place. This was just the most potentially dangerous the situation got. I can only imagine what could have happened if instead of being pleasantly demented, Mrs. Tangle was paranoid/angry demented.

And yes, it was loaded.

19 comments:

Officer Cynical said...

On the street where I grew up, some old guy was found to have a live mortar round on a shelf in his garage. As for Mrs. Tangle, this is always best handled by the cops. Most departments have people specially trained to deal with the mentally unstable, and the equipment to deal with things if they go south.

clairesmum said...

Have run into this issue in home care, too. Convincing family to remove/disable firearms, remove knives and cutting tools, supervise the demented elder when building a fire, lighting a barbecue, or adjusting swimming pool chemicals can be much harder than you would think!
Glad your story ended ok.

Kim said...

Had a family member with dementia go into a restaurant bathroom once but he didn't quite make it. He made a mess of his underpants, took them off, then went back to his table while holding the underpants up in the air, passing all the other patrons in the restaurant, while leaving a trail of...ummm...poop behind.

awesomesauciness said...

When Daddy first displayed symptoms of dementia/Alzheimer's he turned from a mild-mannered friend to everyone to a crazed hellcat. I was the only one to whom he'd listen. I shudder to think what would have happened had he had access to weaponry.

His neurologist told me that Alzheimer's is like a storm moving through the brain, destroying everything in its path, and that his violent behavior would *probably* pass in time. He was right, it did, and he became as child-like as a grown man can be. Such a strange and tragic illness, this long goodbye. :-(

Nana said...

I think this is the sort of thing that should be sent to EVERY member of the NRA, every legislator who supports "carry permits" for everyone, and gun nuts everywhere.

skidmark said...

Dear Nana -

The NRA and almost all of the "gun nuts" already know about this. The less said about legislators the better. But the point is, family members are the ones most likely to know about the existence of firearms, sharp knives, matches, and computers connected to the intenet and thus are in the best position to act when it becomes necessary to take them away from those who are no longer capable of appropriate behavior.

stay safe.

Anonymous said...

Lovely. Grumpy did a nice PSA that's a good reminder about safety and the elderly/mentally altered, and the internet tries to turn it into a political platform.

Mad Jack said...

I don't know, Grump. I'd see this as good publicity. "Heroic Doctor Disarms Demented Granny - Saves Hundreds From Mass Shooting at Dingbat Assisted Living Facility"

I kind of think you should have gone over and retrieved the pistol from her.

And, by the way, if it was a cop's gun I can guarantee it would be loaded. What good's an unloaded gun?

JJ said...

I work as a CNA in an assisted living facility.
One of our nonagerian, blind, and depressed residents sometimes asked me to read him various documents.

One day he asked me to find a special envelope that contained.... a gun permit. That won't expire until 2017!

He told me he had sold the gun.

Anonymous said...

He thought YOU would come take the gun away from her???
I read a case once in the news about a family who cleaned out a recently deceased relative's house and found the basement packed full of so many firearms and explosives they had to cause the bomb squad to take it all away.

dances said...

I think that it was a very good thing that my deceased husbands hoarded ammunition was hoarded in a place he was unable to reach, along with the four fluid ounce jar of mercury and the antique dynamite. That was a lively afternoon.

Ms. Donna said...

First, shame on you, Mr. Deceased Policeman, for not storing your firearm properly. Or not unloading it when you retired. BUT, if you see a weapon, assume it is loaded until proved otherwise.
Second, shame on you, family. You knew Daddy was a police officer and never inquired about his weapon?
Finally, shame on you, Dingbat Place. I thought SOMEONE would check on what a demented pt. had in her/his possession. She could have had a cache of old pills and then took them all at once.
Officer Cynical already said police departments are best at handling this, and the department did call the lady's Mongolian Yak Herder for more information.
Glad it all worked out, but I hope the Dingbat Place staff and Grumpy were wearing brown pants!

nomo kethy said...

Thankfully it ended with no incident but police calling doctor for advice before advance an armed person ... yeah i agree this would have made a great headline ''Super Doctor saves the day ''lol
Don't you just love the elderly and their collectibles ?

Jedi Master Ivyan said...

No offense to Doctor Grumpy, but wouldn't the staff at the assisted living place have the best feel for her mental state, since they see her on a daily basis? Perhaps I give too much credit to the staff. And I suppose cops have to cover their backsides, too.

Anonymous said...

I can top the gun story. In the late 80's, an elderly uncle died. His brother called my mom in hysterics about what he found in the basement.

About 25 storage boxes filled with gay, under aged porn.

Mom told him to call the police, and wait outside.

Mercury and antique dynamite would have been a blessing.

~SkullCandy

Anonymous said...

I can top the gun story. In the late 80's, an elderly uncle died. His brother called my mom in hysterics about what he found in the basement.

About 25 storage boxes filled with gay, under aged porn.

Mom told him to call the police, and wait outside.

Mercury and antique dynamite would have been a blessing.

~SkullCandy

Anonymous said...

This just happened to my friend's family...the mother is home terminally ill. The husband is the caretaker. She won't take her meds so the husband threatens her with a gun. The daughter comes in to find all of this,the son's take dad to the Dr. Dx: early dementia. Family take the guns out of the house.She now has Hospice. Way to close for a tragedy...

RehabRN said...

Ms. Donna:

Totally agree. A good nurse (putting a patient's things away) would have found that gun right away. We also do health and welfare searches when needed. Security here does not play around. They come right over if we call.

We do actually ask on admission if folks are bringing anything like that into the Hotel. I do it in a light-hearted manner, but we have to do so.

Some nurses think it's stupid, but when you take care of munitions experts, sharpshooters,and good ol' boys, you have to follow policy and ask.

Some repeat customers are reminded that firearms are not permitted on the property and asked to leave them at home.

Anonymous said...

We have a neighbor who apparently has started a neurologic decline in the past couple years. He was shouting at my husband yesterday about how he has hated us since he moved in. They have lived there at least 15 years now, and he used to be a very sweet person.

 
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