Even Coupled, You Can Still Die Alone June 16, 2010Posted by Onely in Bad Onely Activities, Everyday Happenings, Food for Thought.
Tags: dying alone, falling on stairs, singles stereotypes
This is a follow-up post to Lisa’s piece about the importance of support networks in old age. We’ve all heard the stereotype that if you’re single, you risk dying “alone” in a small apartment and being eaten by your pets. I just wanted to point out that even if you are happily married after almost forty years, you can still die alone.
My parents have been married for thirty-seven years and still love each others’ company. They enjoy relatively good health and we’re a fortunate family all around. That said, recently on my first day back home for vacation, my mom fell off the attic stairs and broke her knee in quite a dramatic fashion. She couldn’t even sit up, the pain was so nauseating and intense. I was there to call 911 and, per the operator’s instructions, shut Charlie the cat in the bathroom where he wouldn’t be underfoot for the paramedics (or eat my mom).
I considered it a pretty good vacation, despite sitting through two surgeries, cleaning scabs off four rods coming out of my mom’s leg, refilling ice packs every few hours and, in one dramatic post-surgical moment, tripping over the IV line and spilling a dish of vomit all over the floor. Things could have been worse. If I hadn’t chosen that particular week to schedule my vacation, my mom might have lain on the floor of the hallway for hours or days, until someone came in the house and, in her words, “Hit me in the head with the front door”. If she had hurt her her back, or anything more than her knee, who knows if she would have even survived long enough to get whacked in the head.
“But she’s married!” Someone stupid might say. “Married for 37 years! That virtually guarantees that she can’t die in that manner!” The problem was, my parents each have (gasp!) their own lives, and my dad was away on a three-month business trip overseas. We’re lucky that we live next door to two of my uncles, but they aren’t always around either, as they too have their own lives. And thank goodness for that.
Photo credit: Usonian