Sunday, June 10, 2012

Home Alone

I had a mishap last month.

I don’t remember passing out, but when I came to, I had a real close-up view of my floor.  I didn’t even know where I was for a few seconds before I recognized the carpet and then realized that I had fallen.

It was an ugly affair.  My glasses were smashed in half.  My nose was broken and bleeding with blood all over the carpeting. Two of my front teeth were loose.  Soon my face was a number of shades of black and blue.

Then I remembered I had to get to the nursing home to be with my mom to help feed her dinner.  My uncle (her brother) told me that he couldn’t make it that day so I had to be there.  So I wiped as much blood as possible off my face and got into the car. 

Shortly after arriving at the nursing home, it occurred to me that walking through the halls with blood streaming down my face just like for the Etrade baby was frowned upon in this establishment!  Three nurses surrounded and pinned me in a hallway against the wall and told me I wasn’t going anywhere.  I told them I had to see my mother.  They told me I wasn’t going anywhere.  An EMT who happened to be nearby told me I was crazy for getting into a car and driving after I had passed out.  I saw it differently.  I was just fulfilling an obligation.

I was sequestered behind the nurses’ station while they made arrangements to get me to the Emergency Room.  I am happy that my face has healed and that my teeth were fixed so I could eat solid foods..

But it was the time between the accident and the healing that was so painful from living alone.

I have taken an informal survey of many of the people in my singles social club (almost all divorced) on how they were doing living alone.  The very solid consensus was that they were extremely happy living alone and wouldn’t have it any other way.  It was all about freedom.  Freedom to do what they wanted at any time they wanted without having to answer to anybody.  But maybe they had controlling spouses which contributed to their divorces in the first place.  Having a partner who allows you enough space provides for companionship when you want it without being stifled which as I see it is the best of both worlds.

But there is a big downside to being alone and that is when we get sick or injured.  Of course we would never leave young children alone to fend for themselves.  And with the elderly, there are all of the devices advertised on TV to alert personnel to call an ambulance when somebody says "I've fallen and I can't get up!" which by the way is now trademarked.

But what about the group of people between childhood and old age who live alone, especially those in middle age like I am.  Yes we get sick or hurt but there doesn’t seem to be the same concern.  We may well have neighbors and friends but often they are so busy with their lives that we rarely see them so it may be awkward to ask them for help.  Having relatives nearby can help but that isn’t always so.

Being alone while hurt or sick for any period of time makes it very difficult to take care of oneself.  This may include eating properly, bathing and grooming, keeping the house or apartment clean, and taking care of the daily mail including the bills that have to be paid on time.  And then there is the issue of loneliness which I haven’t mentioned yet.  When we are feeling well, we can get out and socialize which can fight loneliness.  But when sick or injured and confined to the house, loneliness can be crushing as I can attest.

So what’s the solution to all of this?  Unlike the elderly who can have caregivers and children who have parents, babysitters, or teachers to watch over them, there is no equivalent for other adults.  This is where we need our friends to help.

But simple friendship isn’t enough.  It takes going the extra mile.  If you have a friend or relative or neighbor who lives alone, stay in touch with that person especially if you haven’t seen him or her for awhile.

Most importantly, reach out and convince that person that if they ever need anything that you are there for him or her.  It’s not trademarked and it may be sappy.  But for those in their hour of need, they will be so grateful and in extreme cases, you may even save a life!  

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