The Ghost of Room 221…New Jersey Nursing Home Ghost

This is the story about the ghost in room 221. This is a true story and I will be describing the actual events as I witnessed them that evening. I was inspired to write up this ghost story after reading a ghost story that I enjoyed on another blog, which you can check out HERE. 

I was working as a nursing assistant in a nursing home in New Jersey. I had five rooms assigned to me on this night. Each room had two roommates living in it.

It was dinner time, and all of my residents were at dinner, in the dining room. We had a call bell system, similar to that which you may have experienced in a hospital. If a resident needed help in the room, there was a call bell on a string , by their bed and they could pull the string to ring for help.

If the call bell was activated, it would call my pager in my pocket, and also call the computer at the front desk. When the secretary at the desk received the call, she would announce it over the speaker.

On this particular night, the call bell rang in room 221. As I said, the residents were at dinner. I went to the room to check, because you never know of someone may have wandered into the room. There are a lot of dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease residents in the nursing home. They do wander into rooms by accident, from time to time.

When I arrived at room 221, there was no one there. I cancelled the call bell and assumed that maybe it had been rung before dinner, and I had forgotten to cancel it. I told the secretary that I had cancelled the bell, and let her know that no one was in the room.

A few minutes later, the call bell rang again. The secretary started scolding me for not answering the bell. I reminded her that she knew I had cancelled it. This particular secretary did not like me and seemed to enjoy telling me that I did not know how to do my job.

I went to the room and cancelled the bell again and informed her that the bell had been cancelled and that both of the roommates were in the dining room, eating dinner. The dining room was right in front of the desk and she could see into it. I gestured towards the dining room for her to see, but she just grumbled something about me neglecting my residents.

This went on a few more times, until the nasty secretary reported me to the supervising nurse, for not answering my call bells. I explained to the nurse that I had cancelled the bell each time and that there was no one in the room.

The nurse thought there must be something making the call bell stick, so that it was not cancelling. This was not true because there is a cancel message that is sent to my pager each time a call bell is cancelled.

That evening I had received a cancel message each time I had cancelled the bell. I knew it  was ringing from scratch each time.

The nurse and I went together and she cancelled the bell. I asked her to please let the nasty secretary know, so that she would stop fussing at me. (I did not quite phrase it that way…)

So, of course about 5 minutes later,  the bell rang again, The secretary started yelling at me about the fact that if the bell rings too long, the computer will call the Director of Nursing at her home. This was an overreaction on her part, because the bells have to ring for 20 minutes straight before the director is called.

I tried to explain this to the secretary. I told her that at no time has this call bell rung for more than a few minutes before I had cancelled it. Besides it was not my fault that the bell kept ringing. Again, she mumbled something about me not taking care of the residents when they call.

Needless to say, this woman was not my favorite person to work with. Of all the people I have worked with over the years, she caused me the most anxiety.

So, the call bell rang again and I got the nurse myself this time. I asked her to please have that secretary call maintenance, since there was clearly something wrong with the bell. She agreed that there was a maintenance issue and asked the secretary to call the maintenance guy.

Well, he arrived and found me to ask what had been happening. I explained the whole story to him and told him that I could not keep going into this room to cancel this mystery bell. It was beginning to interfere with my other work.

He was compassionate to my situation and went right away to get tools to fix the bell. He came back and worked on the bell. He found me 15 minutes later and told me that he believed it should be fixed okay now. He said to call him, if there were any further problems with the bell.

After about 15 minutes, the bell rang again. The resident were now sitting in the TV room and no one was in the room. The secretary began yelling at me again that I was neglecting my residents and I overheard her telling some of my coworkers the same thing.

At this point I was losing patience with the secretary and I refused to go into the room any more. She could sit there and stress over the bell calling the director, if she wanted to.

Maybe the director should know about it anyway. After all, if the bell was not working properly by the time I put my sweet old ladies to bed, then how would they be able to call for help if they had an emergency?

The nurse called maintenance and asked the secretary to stop telling the other workers that I was not taking care of my residents.

He came back and found me. He said he would try something else to fix it and not to worry if it rang while he was working on it. He said to ignore the bell for the time being and go about the rest of my work. I was happy to do this, as I was getting behind and I had a lot of people to get ready for bed.

He left the room and  I saw him near the front desk, I was busy working and figured he would find me, when the room was ready for me to return those ladies to it.

He came to me on the floor, where I was working. He asked me, “did the call bell from 221 just ring on your pager?”

I checked and it in fact had just rung on there. I had been busy taking care of a resident and I had not noticed it.

“Come with me. I want to show you something,” he said.

I liked this maintenance guy, so I agreed to go with him, so that he could show me whatever it was that he wanted me to see. He took to to room 221.

He walked me into the room to where the call bell was. He said “Look” and pointed to the wall, where the call bell assembly was usually mounted.

There was just a huge empty hole in the wall. The entire assembly had been removed.

He said to me “I could not think of anything else to do, so I decided to remove the entire system out of the wall. I took it out about 30 minutes ago.”

“How?” I stammered…

He said, “I have no idea. There is nothing there. There is nothing hooked into the electrical system. There is no call bell here now.”

And still the bell rang for the rest of the night.  The frequency  slowed down after a while and it  began ringing every hour or so.

When the night shift arrived on the next night, I asked them if that bell had continued to ring after I had gone home the night before.  They told me that every couple of hours that bell would ring, even though all that was left of it was a gaping hole in the wall.

That is my ghost story from the nursing home. It was weird and I still remember the room number all these years later.

They eventually replaced that bell assembly with a new system. It was an upgrade and different from the older one. But from time to time, during the next year I worked there, that call bell would ring when no one was in the room.

The Fire Alarm Story from the Nursing Home

A few weeks ago, I posted on here that there had been a fire alarm at the nursing home where I work. The single most terrifying words to ever hear, when working in a second floor dementia unit at a nursing home, are “This is NOT a Drill! “

So, there we were. It was about 8 pm. Luckily the hospice aides were still with us. They usually work from about 4om to 8:30 pm. had it been a half hour later, there would only have been 3 of us, to move all of the residents, including lifting heavy people out of their beds and getting them into wheelchairs.

There were 3 of us , plus 3 hospice aides there, on the unit. The hospice aides were great and stayed with us, until the danger was cleared.

The alarm system at a nursing facility, is not the same as what you have in your home. It is extra loud and there are all kinds of buzzers and lights flashing, in addition to the alarm ringing noises. The noise and the flashing lights are enough to raise anyone’s blood pressure through the roof.

In addition, there was a terrible problem with communication to the main nurse station. Since we were upstairs, on the second floor, we had no idea where the fire was, or what exit we should be taking people towards. At first we did not even know if it was a real fire.

Upon trying to contact the nurse station with our walkie talkies, we quickly found out that they could not hear us and we could not hear them well, over the sounds of the alarms. I was trying to ask them which way to take the residents. The response that I heard was “take everyone to a common area”

This idea of a common area was confusing, based on the way the dementia unit is set up. This is a lock down unit, with a coded door. The unit is sectioned away from the rest of the facility, in order to contain the people with Alzheimer’s disease, for their own protection.

If they were not locked into the unit, they could end up wandering outside in front of a car, going into the kitchen and getting burned and any number of possible dangers.  Also most of the are “Fall Risks,” which means that they cannot walk without falling. but they also do not remember not to get up and walk.

Many of them think they are 30 or even 19 and they do not remember that they are in a wheelchair, and cannot walk by themselves without falling. This was a frightening issue during the fire incident, because we were afraid to lose track of anyone or leave anyone in a place where they might get up and fall.

In addition, these alarms are blaring and the lights are flashing and everyone is feeling that “fight or flight” mode in their body. We wanted to move them to the proper place, but where was the proper place?

What is the “common area” ? I was speaking into the walkie talkie and they could not hear me asking “DO you want us to keep them in the lounge area ?” “Do you want us to bring them out of the lock down area, into the hallway” …”DO you want us to bring them downstairs?”

No one could hear my questions. We had no idea where they wanted us to bring them all. SO, we guessed.

We started to bring all the residents in their wheelchairs, into the hallway, outside of the lounge , but still in the dementia lock down area. Some residents had to be gotten out of bed.

We had trouble even communicating with each other, over the extreme noise of the alarm system. And the longer the alarms kept going, the longer our brains and bodies stayed on “high alert” with blood pressure elevated and the whole body in that frightening “life and death” emergency mode.

The supervisor working with me that night had us take the residents down the hall. towards the back stairs.

Each bedroom was checked. As we were going along, we closed the door to each room that was cleared, and placed a pillow on the floor, outside the bedroom door. The pillow is an alert that the particular room has been checked and cleared.

The pillow system is  great, because there is no time to be checking rooms that another worker already cleared. As it was, we were having trouble communicating because of the extreme noise.

Let me tell you something about the stairs….We would never get everyone out ! There simply would not be time.

It is terrifying that In the midst of this situation, there dawns this realization on you that….We Would Never Get Everyone Out.

How would we get people down the stairs? The ones that can walk, do not walk well. It would be a very slow process, walking one old person down the stairs, and keeping them from falling,

Then what?

The wheelchairs don’t go down stairs. The residents cannot walk. We are supposed to take one at a time, lay them on a sheet, and with one person holding each end of the sheet…..drag them down the stairs with the sheet.

How difficult would this be? How long would it take? Do you think that argumentative residents that will throw their grilled cheese sandwich at you during lunch…are just going to allow you to lay them on a sheet….and just cooperate ….

…while we drag them down a hard set of stairs, inevitably banging them and hurting them a little bit, on the way down?

Do you think we could even get them to cooperate enough to lie down on a sheet? It would not happen…

Not only that…Even if we got one resident outside, what would happen to them, as we went back up to get the next one? These are the people that we have in the lock down unit, for the very reason that they are not safe to be left alone.

So, there we were. I was beginning to wonder about my own safety. Where was the fire? Was it on our floor? Was it right beneath us?  Was is blocking our exit?

After a few minutes, before we had tried to get anyone do go down the stairs, the nurse came up from downstairs and said “NO ! You have taken them to wrong place. The fire is right underneath all of you ! “

So, then we had to start all over again, and move the 25 wheelchairs down the other end of the hallway. This time they wanted us to take them out the lock down door and into the 2nd floor hallway. This we did.

By some miracle, none of the residents fell or fought us too much, or tried  to get up out of their wheelchairs.

So, the alarm is beginning to make my head hurt. It is disorienting my brain. My ears, and everyone else’s are about to bleed from listening to this alarm, for 10 or 15 minutes by now.

Then the fire department came and they cleared the danger. We were told that everything was okay now and we could return the residents to their rooms.

But…….

The alarm was still going….and going….and going…

By now, the residents were becoming very agitated, The ones that have hearing problems were the best off, but the others were becoming over stimulated by listening to this alarm, the buzzers and the flashing lights…which …would….not…..STOP !

I called down on the walkie talkie, but they could not hear what I was saying over the alarm.

“Turn off the alarm ! Pleeeeaaaase turn off the alarm. My ears are bleeding! “

“What? We can;t hear you. The alarm is still going off on your floor.?”

“Really ????”

“yes, we cannot hear you.”

“Turn off the alarm! The residents are getting combative, Sarah tried to kick me and 2 others are climbing out of their wheelchairs and they are going to fall.”

“What? We can’t hear you.Your alarm is really loud.”

“Really ? I did not notice. “

Anyway, I  gave up on the walkie talkie and I called the office from the phone in the kitchen, The alarm was going in there too, but somehow they could hear me a little bit. 

They told me….and you won’t believe it ……

“The alarm is off on the first floor, where we are The alarm seems to be still going off, where you are, The fire dept has already left. We have to call maintenance . AT HOME, and have him come in to turn it off.”

“What?  Holy crap. We cannot tolerate this for another 20 minutes. The residents cannot even hear us, when we are telling them to sit down. They are climbing up because the alarm is frightening them. ..

“The workers cannot communicate with each other. This is a major safety problem, besides the fact that my brain is going to explode right  out of my ears, any second now !! “

“Yes, we are calling Marty now. He will have to come in from his home to turn off the alarm.”

FINALLY, 20 minutes after the 1st floor alarm was cleared, which was 20 minutes after the fire dept cleared the alarm originally. The alarm was off !

I could still hear it ringing in my ears, so I had to wait a minute to be sure it was really off, and not just a dream…

“Thank you. Yay ! Yay ! The alarm is off on second floor. “

dizzy, headache, room spinning, disoriented,,,,relieved.

Our Capacity for Love

I work with dementia patients for my job. I would like to share this touching story with you that happened last year.

I have an old woman with dementia in the unit that has severe disorientation of time and place. I will refer to her here as Anna Rosemary.

Anna Rosemary is a sweet lady. She cannot put her words together to make any sentences that make sense. She expresses emotion clearly through facial expression, gestures and the volume and tone of her voice.

If she is sad then she cries. If something amuses her, she laughs. When she sees me she always smiles.

Sometimes when i get to work she looks at me and says “thank God.” which means I have not seen you around, I am glad to see you back.

I stopped to talk with her one night. She likes to talk back and forth. She listens and she responds but her words do not come out the way she wants.

She says to me “I feel like I am cuckoo.” I was surprised at this because it had not occurred to me that she was aware that there was something wrong with her brain.

I repeated it back to her to make sure I had understood her. I said “Anna Rosemary. do you feel like you are cuckoo?”

She said “Yes. I am trying to figure myself out.” I was amazed at the clarity of this sentence. I must have taken a huge amount of effort for her to force her brain to put that sentence together. That shows how important it is for people to communicate their feelings to another person.

I gave her a hug and told her that her brain was being a bit cuckoo and I did not know why. I told her that I still knew her and loved her. I could still understand how she was feeling.

I told her that I feel a bit cuckoo sometimes too. Something happens with our brain sometimes. But that she was still Anna Rosemary.

She hugged me and said “it is hard” I asked her if she felt it was hard to put her words together. She hugged me tighter.

I said to her, “you still know love. You still have a beautiful heart and know what love is.”

“You don’t have to keep trying so hard right now to put the words together. You are full of love and I love you.”

She and I stood there and I held her and kissed the top of her head.

Anna Rosemary hugged me back, and felt comforted, as did I.

She stopped worrying about putting her words together for a while and took my hand to walk with her into the living room area. We just walked together , holding hands for a while in silence.

Sometimes there is more love in silence than with a lot of talking. If she can still love people and needs to be loved then love itself must transcend the basic functions of the brain.

Love and the need to be loved is more powerful than the rational, cognitive parts of the brain.

Even when most of the brain is not functioning properly, love is still alive and thriving.

The brain is the ruling organ of the body. It controls every function in the body, including language processing and speech.

But even with all of those functions damaged, the capacity for love is in tact. There is something very special about our ability to love.

Annie’s Top 10 List – Things a Nursing Home Aide Does not Want to Hear

10. Beatrice was right there a minute ago.

9. I would have sworn I put a diaper on her.

8. The only juice left to give them is prune juice.

7. The coffee maker in the break room is broken.

6. We are having a fire drill at 9pm.

5. It’s a full moon.

4. You go tell them we  have no ice cream  for dessert.

3. Why is Paul wearing Connie’s nightgown?

2. They just waxed the floor.

1. Aren’t  those Mary’s clothes in the tv room?

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