Advocacy, Annie & Cricket, Antipsychotic drugs, NHBPS

death by recliner


This is one in a series of vignettes based on the Nursing Home Behaviour Problem Scale (NHBPS), which is used to measure agitation in people who live with dementia. The vignettes are told from the point of view and in the voice of a fictional character called Annie, a woman in her mid-eighties who lives with dementia of the Alzheimer’ type in the mid- to later-stages of the disease. Annie resides in a long-term care facility somewhere in Canada. This vignette is called “death by recliner.” There’s a link to all the vignettes at the end of the post.  

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death by recliner

”I’m just going to tilt this back for you Annie, so you’ll be more comfortable,” the girl says, as she raises the footrest and my feet with it. My body settles back into the big chair. My legs and feet are in the air; my head sinks into something soft.

“You can take a little nap, Annie, won’t that be nice?” the girl says. Light streams through the window beside me. It’s a sunny day. A warm day. Wouldn’t it be lovely to be outside?

“I don’t want to take a nap,” I say. I’d love to be out in my garden. I bet the geraniums in my window boxes could use some water. It’s been dry lately.

“Yes you do,” the girl says “you always have a nap after lunch. Here let me pin you.” She tugs and pinches my sweater at the shoulder on one side and then the other, puts a blanket across my middle. “That’s it dear. You’re all set.”

“Na na na na no,” I say. I put my elbows on the armrests, reach forward and pull with my hands, squeezing down and in with my lower legs and heels at the same time. The chair starts to move. My body propels slowly forward. My feet get closer to the ground.

“Annie. Stop that Annie,” the girl says. “It’s time for your nap.” She pulls the footrest up. My feet lift; I lean back. The hollow of the seat cradles my bum. I’m half lying, half sitting. I want to get up. I try to get up. The girl pushes somewhere beside my head; my feet rise, my bum lowers, my head goes back.

“What am I going to do with you Annie?” She says; her voice has an edge. It’s scary when the girls talk like that. I don’t like that tone of voice. It makes me feel like something not good is going to happen.

See the real thing here: hidden restraints, hidden abuse

“Let’s see,” she says. Her head turns slowly, and then stops. I look where she’s looking. There’s a striped chair not far away. The girl walks over to the striped chair. She has dancing clowns on her shirt. Her pants are blue. I like blue. I try to stand before she returns. I’m almost up. I’m almost there. But the girl is back before I can make it. My legs rise high as she pushes the seat of the striped chair under the footrest. I flop back. My breath pops out: huh! as my spine hits the chair with a thump.

“There we go, Annie. That should keep you safe and sound my love. Have a nice nap,” she says.

“I don’t want to have a nap,” I say. My eyes are wet and blurry. My throat feels tight.

“Yes you do.” She pats my foot. “You like to have a nap after lunch.” She walks out the door. The clowns go with her. I sit alone. The sun shines through the window. I need to get up and get out of here. I bend my knees, grab the ends of the armrests with my hands, and pull as hard as I can. I use my feet to push down on the top of the footrest. I feel the strain in my thighs. Nothing. The chair is stuck. What’s wrong? Why doesn’t it move? 

“Help!” I cry. “I can’t get up. Help!” No one comes. I’m trapped. Something pounds in the middle of my body. I feel cold. Oh my God help me, I’m trapped. I pull with my hands until my arms shake. I draw my knees closer to my chest, crunch my upper body forward, push with one arm, try to twist and roll out of the chair. Get out of here. It’s too hard. It’s no good. My stomach muscles aren’t strong enough. I fall back.

“Help!” I shout. “Please help me!” My voice cracks and squeaks. “Something’s wrong. I don’t know what’s wrong. Help!” But no one comes. No one comes.


©2016 Susan Macaulay /

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