One morning last week, I awoke with a start at 2:30 a.m. It seemed like an alarm clock had gone off, but no alarm was ringing. I felt strange and uncomfortable. I am a light sleeper. But, even with earplugs in, whatever woke me up had to have been loud.
I tried to relax and go back to sleep. But my subconscious was on alert. I would doze for a few minutes and then wake again. A half hour later, I fell asleep and woke at 4:30 a.m. Since I have requested not to be bed checked, I put on my call light.
When my call light was not answered in 10 minutes, I wondered if there was an emergency elsewhere in the facility. After 15 minutes, I could feel fear rising in my throat. I wondered if I should call "Nurse" for help. Then, I realized it would be difficult for staff to hear me through my closed door in my room at the end of the hall.
I decided not to disturb myself or anyone else by calling for help. As my sleep fuzz wore off, I noticed my left pinky was throbbing. My hand splints had been on since bedtime and needed to come off. My mouth felt dry. Since I cannot move much on my own, I managed to wiggle to make myself a bit more comfortable. My roommate was asleep.
When my light went unanswered for 20 minutes, I became more anxious. I considered possible scenarios that could cause my light to go unnoticed. I also wondered if my breath-activated call light even came on. That is a scary situation—and it has happened before.
After the alarm on the light had been ringing for 30 minutes, my heart was beating fast. I reasoned that, wherever the nurse and aides were, they were not able to hear my light’s alarm ringing. I reasoned that is why I was still waiting. Thirty-five minutes after I put my light on, the nurse and an aide calmly came in. Although I wanted to ask what had held them up, I resisted the urge. When there was no apology, I decided they must have just noticed my light.
After they left, I thought about the call light waits I have experienced in more than 18 years living in nursing homes. Some causes were resident falls, illnesses and death. But there must have been times when aides were in the break room eating lunch and had no idea my call light was on.
I do not think aides and nurses realize how fearful I become after waiting 15 minutes for assistance. There is no way for me to deactivate the light or forget why I put it on in the first place.