Remain Calm


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A few years ago, I was driving my SUV and smelled a strange odor.  Looking around I saw a crew painting a fighter plane that had been converted to a monument.  Thinking that was the smell I continued driving until I passed the painting crew.  However, I still noticed it.  A few blocks later I saw some smoke coming from the defroster vents. Thinking a bearing had seized in the heater fan causing it to overheat, I started looking for a safe place to pull over.  Since I was in heavy traffic in an urban setting, I looked for a parking lot.  Soon I noticed an entrance to a mall and made an exit.

The smoke increased considerable, which made me consider it could be more severe than I previously thought.   Suddenly, I could see flames beneath the dash on the passenger side.  Not wanting to catch another vehicle on fire, I drove a short distance and parked a safe distance from other autos.  Leaping from the car I realized there was nothing I could do since I didn’t have a fire extinguisher.  So, I called 911 from my cell phone and stood back a safe distance.

Almost immediately, a man came running with a fire extinguisher he had obtained from a nearby restaurant and assisted me.  His efforts helped but didn’t completely extinguish the fire.  Soon the firemen arrived and quickly ended the excitement.

I was interviewed by one of the firemen, and I informed him step-by-step how I ended up in the parking lot.  He commented, “It seemed you were very cool during the emergency.”  Then he asked me about my auto insurance.  It dawned on me he was insinuating I was too calm in the time of emergency, and he suspected me of some foul play.  He was considering the possibility that I might have intentionally set my vehicle on fire.

The insurance investigation that followed seemed more thorough than necessary.  For instance, the adjuster asked why the transmission fluid was new.  He was considering the possibility, I torched the vehicle because the transmission was failing.  Fortunately, I had proof I’d recently had it rebuilt at a significant cost.  He eventually concluded the computer module malfunctioned causing the fire and offered a settlement less than it was worth.  I won’t mention the name of the insurance company, but they are available in all states.

Since I had been an EMT for four years as a young man, I was trained to remain calm.  When calm I could control the situation and prevent others from panicking.  I learned, amidst chaos a calm head could think clearer and perform better.  However, if I ever have another vehicle fire I will scream and cry if I can squeeze a tear.  I will throw dirt at the flames then raise my hands above my head while running around the vehicle.  It will take several firemen to calm me down.  I may even need a sedative.  It will be an Oscar-winning performance.  Maybe then they will consider me a victim rather than a suspect.

However, excited or angry behavior doesn’t work well with an upset dementia patient.  Like an EMT, we should remain calm while others panic.  A dementia patient can easily be provoked to violent behavior.  An unruffled demeanor may prevent a bad situation from starting or escalating once started.

We should talk to a dementia patient directly in front of them and at eye level since some have tunnel vision.   We shouldn’t put our hand on their shoulder as we may be considered a threat.  Instead, we should take them gently by the hand and lead them where we want them to go.  We speak softly, slowly, and in a low tone.  It may help to eliminate unnecessary noise such as the television.

We are careful to not appear angry or scared.  Though our loved one might not know us, they may recognize our emotion.  When my mother fell, recently, I calmly explained she “bumped” her head though she had a three-inch gash on her forehead exposing her skull.  My seemingly calm behavior didn’t cause her to panic.

Additionally, always isolate the dog before the ambulance arrives.  As an EMT I was bitten numerous times as their dog reacted to the excitement of its owner.  Its natural response is to protect its master.  Though I was calm, it didn’t seem to calm the dog.

A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. Proverbs 15:1 NASB

© Copyright 2018 Ronald Milburn