Health & wellbeing

Midsummer madness: In which I take Scarlett O’Hara as inspiration

25 Mar 2023 | Written by By Geraldine Durrant

In her latest column, blogger and The Joy Club member Geraldine Durrant recalls her resourceful approach to recovering her husband from a fall…

You can find the previous instalment of Geraldine’s column here.

In the early months after Patrick’s diagnosis I had developed a keen instinct for those nights when I could expect him to prowl the corridors at night – although what he was actually prowling for will forever remain a mystery.

It had become apparent that any minor upset or change in his daily routine would prey on his mind, and as soon as the initial effect of his sleeping pills had worn off in the early hours, I knew he would be up and about.

So just as I had in the days when we had a newborn in the house, I slept with one ear open, listening for the tell tale creak of a floorboard, or the flick of a light switch to announce his impending arrival.

And my worst suspicions were realised one night when – on the stroke of midnight – I heard shuffling coming from his room, followed seconds later by a loud thud.

We were “Man down!” and I was out of bed faster than any old lady with two replacement joints had any right to be.

Flinging open the bedroom door I found Patrick sprawled – oddly naked but for his nappy – on his back under the window, looking for all the world like a beached turtle as he blinked in the sudden light.

It was no use asking him why he was out of bed, he had no more idea than I did.

But it was also useless asking him to get up.

Shaking and confused, he was quite unable even to turn on to his front.

“Just roll over on your tummy,” I begged hoping that perhaps I could coax him by degrees on to his knees, and thence pull him up on to the bed.

But it was obvious he couldn’t help himself – and equally obvious that I couldn’t hope to lift his dead weight off the floor on my own.

“Please, please try,” I urged, tugging ineffectually on his arm.

But he was as immovable as I was exhausted by this futile effort.

It was at this stage I pondered the exquisite irony that the reason Patrick had gone to bed agitated in the first place was because, earlier in the day, I had arranged for him to have a falls monitor fitted… which in his mind had equated to some sort of operation.

So I considered my options.

I could call an ambulance, but falls are low priority: it would likely take hours for one to arrive, and – in any case – it seemed a waste of resources just to get one confused old man back into bed.

I could call on my son, who lives a mile away, but for all I knew he may have had a drink during the course of the previous evening and he had work in the morning.

And kind as they are, I hesitated to call on any of our neighbours in the early hours of the morning.

I also had no idea if the district nurses would help with lifting. But guessed probably not…

Then I had an idea.

I grabbed Patrick by his ankles, and in a scene reminiscent of the one in which Scarlett O’Hara dragged the body of a dead Yankee across the floor at Tara, I hauled him out of the bedroom on his back and across the hall to the top of the stairs, thanking God for easy-slide wooden floors rather than carpet.

Once there, I urged him to dangle his legs down the stairwell, and then push himself up on a step while pulling hard on the bannister rails either side.

Huston. We had lift off!

For one touch-and-go moment we were within a whisker of a double death dive into the abyss below, but with his last reserves of strength Patrick managed to climb up backwards and flop into the chair I had placed waiting at the top of the stairs.

Then clinging to my shoulders I walked him to the foot of the bed and half rolled, half dragged him back into place.

The eagle had landed…

But for how long this time?

Geraldine Durrant is a retired journalist, feature writer and children’s author who – since her husband was diagnosed with dementia a year ago – has kept a diary about her experiences as his carer. We have the privilege of publishing Geraldine’s incredibly personal story on our blog every Saturday, so keep your eye out for more on this series next Saturday.

If Geraldine’s writing resonates with you in some way, please do leave a comment to let her know.

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