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Can we tell 911 not to respond to calls from my dad?

My mom does not want 911 called for any event she encounters, she is 87 and with a home hospice service because of pancreatic cancer. My dad panics whenever an event happens (ie struggle with pain or breathing) and calls 911 against her wishes.Is there a legal way our family can pursue that would absolve local EMT services from responding to a call? We try to always have someone with my parents but even having a trained nurse standing right by the bed hasn't kept dad from calling 911 if mom is coughing for more than a few minutes. This is just adding stress to mom at a time when she merely wants to die at home surrounded by family.
Status: Open    Jan 04, 2016 - 10:33 AM

End of Life, Elder Law

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Expert Answers

Jan 13, 2016 - 02:16 PM

I do not believe you could tell them not to respond, but talk to your doctor about a "do not resuscitate" or DNR order. They may be able to provide you with documentation and/or a bracelet that would direct the paramedics not to perform life-saving treatments.

Jan 15, 2016 - 01:44 PM

Since your mom is under hospice care, you may want to start with the hospice staff. Discuss the issue with the case manager and see what she or he has to suggest. It sounds like your dad could use some help dealing with your mom’s situation. Frequently, the caregiver becomes frightened if the patient is experiencing distress. They feel like they are responsible for the patient’s distress and need to do something about it.

It might help your dad to understand what could happen to your mom, if he calls 911 and they take her to the hospital. If he gives the impression that she has changed her mind about the DNR, the paramedics and hospital will have to provide full medical measures. You might want to encourage your dad, whenever he is tempted to call 911, to call the hospice case manager, instead.

While you could discuss the situation with your local paramedic services, the case manager might be a better person to talk with them.

Hospice has a full array of services to help your mom, dad and other family members. Besides medical and nursing, these services include spiritual, legal and emotional support. One of these services might be a good option to provide help for your dad. The more your dad understands what to expect as your mom approaches death and things he can do to help support her, he may feel more comfortable with the situation.

I wish you and your family well during such an important time for your mom, dad and family.


Jan 26, 2016 - 10:56 AM

You cannot stop the EMT services from responding to calls, but mom can sign a “Do Not Resuscitate” (DNR) form that would prevent them from resuscitating her.

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Jan 16, 2016 - 10:41 AM

Hi. I'm a retired FF/EMT. We have to respond to the 911 call. We have a legal responsibility to do so and even though he calls 10 times for a panic reason that 11th time might come from a real emergency. So, from the Emergency Services viewpoint we have to respond to every call. The words he uses to describe the situation will dictate how we respond. If we are responding to a "lift assist" or to check a bad detector or for a weird odor with no medical symptoms we can respond "non emergency" which means no lights or sirens. If he says that she is having trouble breathing or having chest pain that will always get an emergency response and, depending on your city, probably both an ambulance and a fire truck.

The responding crews will probably become familiar with you and you with them. Most of the time we develop a relationship with the folks we frequently respond to and are sympathetic to their situation. We often learn their names and can have more of a conversation than an interview. It also helps us to know a little about what to expect when we go in.

Be patient with your dad. Try to meet us outside after we arrive so we know that we don't need to bring in the big bags or maybe even don't all need to crowd in to see your mom. Maybe we could just lean in, say hi and make sure there isn't a real emergency. We could re-assure your dad and be on our way.

Source: Richelle Basgall, Roeland Park KS


Jan 16, 2016 - 05:42 AM

In general when you go on Hospice care Hospice becomes your 911.
Other than a fall, and that would be a call for a "Lift Assist" not a transport, calls should go to Hospice.
Hospice has people on the phones 24/7 to take calls and if necessary send someone to the house. The person answering the phones at Hospice will have access to medical records and will know what is going on with your Mom so they can reassure your Dad that things are alright. Or that he has reason to be concerned and they will have someone see your Mom as soon as possible if that is the decision.
If your Mom is on Hospice I imagine she has a DNR or POLST (physician orders for life saving treatment) that explains what she wants and does not want. Paramedics should be made aware of these forms. Best to post them on the refrigerator or other easily seen location. What you don't want is for anyone to try CPR.
If it makes your Dad feel better program the Hospice number into a speed dial so that he can call anytime he would call 911 and he will get a response and someone to talk to.
I know where your Dad is in his head.. My husband is on Hospice and while I think I have it together when something comes up I am ruled by 2 organs in my body, my Brain and my Heart, and they are instructing me to do 2 different things. But I have to listen to my brain and hold his hand with my heart.
It is scary when most of your life you have had 911 drilled into your head and in the movies and on TV calling 911 can make everything better. Well it can't.
good luck and give your Dad a big hug.
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