I had a real wake-up call the other night. I entertained that flu that’s been visiting its nasty habits on young and old since late February. As I reclined motionless, drained of all body fluids and every ounce of energy, one thought kept me comforted: I was not alone in a big, empty house.
If I’d needed help, the pull of a cord would have brought a health aide to my side in minutes. As it happened, I made it on my own. But I kept thinking, what if …?
Eventually, we all have to come to terms with the future. For a long-married woman or man, that time comes shortly after the partner bids that final farewell. Once the funeral flurry is over and friends who’d been so attentive have retreated to their own lives, a loud silence echoes through empty rooms. Reality sets in: I am all by myself. Is staying alone in that home a good idea? Should I consider a senior living alternative?
“I won’t leave my home,” she may insist, especially if she has few health or mobility issues, and can still drive. Or he declares, “I’m gonna stay right here. I can take care of myself.”
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The man or woman left behind must ask: If I stumble and fall, who will pick me up? Who’ll call for help? Who’ll bring me warm chicken soup to give my body strength and soothe my soul?
When life in an “old folks home” sounds like a sentence instead of a solution, it’s time to face reality. If you’ve read my columns this past year, you no doubt recognize my bias. I am firmly convinced that few older people should live alone in a single-family dwelling, although leaving the familiar home sounds nearly as traumatic as losing the spouse. Fact: Once half a couple is left alone, that cozy nest loses most of its comfort.
When couples make the move while both are still able to enjoy the amenities a professional staff affords, the worries of eventual singleness are greatly diminished.
My night spent with that nasty crud demonstrated just how vulnerable we become with every passing year. In senior living, I am never totally alone.